Youth Rights

Social Media and School Safety

08.13.12

In February 2012, a student opened fire on other students at Chardon High School in northeast Ohio. Three students died in the attack, and two others were seriously wounded. In the aftermath of the attack, schools and law enforcement around the region began to punish students for insensitive, sarcastic, or offensive remarks they made on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The ACLU strongly condemns the use of violence and notes that true threats of violence are not protected under the First Amendment. However, many students and adults were punished for expressing opinions that may have been inflammatory or insensitive — but are not illegal. One such case occurred in Painesville, where the ACLU spoke out on the punishment imposed on the defendant, which included a yearlong prohibition against using social media.