8th grader’s Facebook rant against teacher is “protected speech”
That’s right – a federal district court judge in Oregon called Braeden Burge’s off-campus posts an attempt to elicit a response from his friends, not a serious threat against the teacher.
Braeden, an eighth-grader at Colton Middle School in Oregon, was upset at receiving a C from his health teacher, Veronica Bouck. He posted comments on his private computer and Facebook page on a day when school wasn’t in session. He referred to her as a “bitch” who “needs to be shot.” He wanted to start a petition to get her fired since she was “the worst teacher ever.”
When questioned by the police about his posts, Braeden admitted what he wrote but meant no harm to anyone. He explained that he only wanted to get a response from his friends “just to see what they thought about it.” Braeden was given a 3 1/2 day in-school suspension.
Following the Tinker test of “substantial disruption,” the federal judge found that Braeden’s writings did not cause “a widespread whispering campaign at school” and that no students missed school or teachers missed work due to his comments. The police weren’t notified and no further investigation was undertaken by the school. Braeden’s First Amendment rights had been violated.
The court ordered the suspension be removed from Braeden’s school record and that he (and his parents) be reimbursed for their legal expenses.