What about online posts that disparage or threaten religious groups?

It’s going to be interesting to see how the 10th Circuit handles the case of C.G v. Siegfried.  As Loyal Readers of the Daily Dawg know, the Supreme Court has held that school district authority over off-campus conduct by students is “diminished.”  SCOTUS held that when Brandy Levy dropped four consecutive F-bombs and put them on Snapchat, she enjoyed constitutional protection. The “diminished” authority of the school district was not enough to justify her suspension from the cheerleading squad. 

So now the 10th Circuit will have to apply that holding to a fact situation in Colorado that is somewhat similar, but is different in significant ways.  As in Brandi’s case, the Colorado case involved off-campus conduct over the weekend. As in Brandi’s case, the student posted on Snapchat.  The post was a picture of C.G.’s three buddies who were wearing hats and wigs at a thrift shop.  One of the hats looked like a military hat from a foreign country. The post that accompanied the picture read:

Me and the boys bout to exterminate the Jews.

Brandi engaged in a temper tantrum with vulgar language, but did not target any person or group.  C.G. targeted a group based on its religion.  Moreover, this is a religious group that has reason to fear such words.  He meant it as a joke, but it missed by a mile. 

Brandi apologized for her immature behavior.  C.G. not only apologized, he attempted to make amends.  He removed the post within a few hours of posting it, and then posted an apology on Snapchat: “I’m sorry for that picture it was ment [sic] to be a joke.” He also sent a letter to school officials “accepting full responsibility for the Snapchat picture, apologizing for his behavior, explaining that it was an impulsive lack of judgment not intended to hurt anyone, and stating that he had recently spent time educating himself about Jewish history and talking with Jewish community members and advocacy groups.”

His parents hoped that the school would treat the incident as a “teachable moment.”   Nope.  While Brandi was only suspended from JV cheerleading, C.G. was expelled from school for a year.  The student sued the district, alleging that this was an infringement of his free speech rights.

The federal district court dismissed the student’s suit, holding that disciplinary action was appropriate because the anti-Semitic post created a reasonable forecast of a material and substantial disruption of school.   That decision was made on August 10, 2020, and is cited at 477 F.Supp3d 1194.  It’s been pending before the 10th Circuit for over a year.  We’ll keep an eye out for this one.

This case is a good reminder of why we need to have a Holocaust Remembrance Week. 


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at jwalsh@wabsa.com

Tomorrow: kids rally to support a popular teacher, but…..