Portland, OR – A student who got grounded over a “C” called for his teacher to be “shot” on Facebook, and was promptly suspended. Now, his mother is suing the school for infringing upon his First Amendment rights, and though that might sound like crazy town to the adults in the room, these kinds of cases have a habit of falling on the side of the student.
Braeden Burge, 16, called teacher Veronica Bouck a “b*tch” who “needs to be shot” on his Facebook page after getting the poor grade. “I just noticed that every time I’ve been grounded in middle school it’s because of Mrs. Bouck … I wish she would just get fired haha but I doubt that’ll ever happen,” Burge added.
His mother, Kelly Burge, has filed a lawsuit against Colton School District 53 over the suspension, accusing the school of violating his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The ACLU of Oregon is also on the case.
Since Braeden wrote the comments “from the privacy of his own home, outside of school hours, and while not participating in a school-sponsored activity,” Kelly argues that his suspension is a violation of his rights. She’s asking that Braeden’s record be wiped clean.
“The district has overreached by suspending Braeden for off-campus speech with no evidence that his speech actually caused or was reasonably likely to cause a material and substantial disruption of on-campus educational activities,” the lawsuit reads.
“[Principal Kara Powell] did not ask Braeden if he had access to guns or any experience with guns, she did not speak with the other students who posted comments on Braeden’s Facebook wall in response to his comments about Bouck,” it continues.
We’ve seen students win lawsuits against their schools in similar cases before (especially when the ACLU is involved), but a threat against a teacher or school property kicks the game up another level. Most recently, a Springettsbury, Pennsylvania freshman was suspended for 23 days after making an apparent bomb threat against his school on Facebook. His parents called the comment a “misplaced attempt at humor.”
Do you think that schools have a right to hold students accountable for what they say on social media, or is any speech that occurs outside of school protected by their Constitutional rights?