The Constitution’s First Amendment was not violated by the suspension of a student who sent his instant messaging buddies a violent image calling for the death of a teacher, even though the message was a joke, says a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruling reported by the New York Law Journal.
Even if the sending of the message could be seen as an expression of opinion, the court said “it crosses the boundary of protected speech and constitutes student conduct that poses a reasonably foreseeable risk that the icon would come to the attention of school authorities” and disrupt the work of the school. Eighth-grader Aaron Wisniewski sent to 15 friends an icon containing a small drawing of a pistol firing a bullet at a person’s head and blood splattering. Beneath the icon were the words “Kill Mr. VanderMolen,” a reference to Aaron’s English teacher, Philip VanderMolen. The student was suspended for 5 days. A police investigator also concluded it was a joke and closed a pending criminal case.