A student in a Randolph County school is suing her district, saying the administration suspended her for pointing out students using racial slurs in a TikTok video. As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, the case echoes one currently in front of the US Supreme Court.
Because she’s a minor, the freshman at Monroe Junior-Senior High School is referred to in the lawsuit by the initials I.B.
According to the lawsuit, I.B. says she was being bullied by students who were using “offensive, inappropriate, and racist” language, including the racial “n-word” slur. I.B. is White, but says she is known as being an ally for racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.
According to the lawsuit, she says she reported the bullying to Monroe Central’s administration, but says they did nothing. She then posted a nine-second TikTok video created off school grounds that included photos of three students she says were using the slurs.
Monroe Junior-Senior High School Principal David Retherford suspended I.B. for two days. The lawsuit details a phone call to her home, saying Retherford said the video constituted “slander.” In the formal notice of suspension, he wrote “It is not her role to ‘police’ other students’ speech.”
An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union is representing I.B. In the lawsuit filing, he says the video is completely truthful and accurate and the suspension violates her First Amendment rights.
Dom Caristi is a professor of telecommunications at Ball State University. He says schools regulating student speech off-campus is a slippery slope.
“It’s understandable that schools would not want it to rise to the level of bullying. But if it’s something that might rise to the level of embarrassment, should schools be getting involved? Probably not.”
This case is similar to one heard recently at the US Supreme Court – where a Texas student’s off-campus video rant got her suspended from her school’s cheerleading squad.
Monroe Central School Corporation did not respond to a request for comment.