A Tullahoma High School student, identified as I.P. due to being a minor, has filed a lawsuit against Tullahoma City Schools and former THS principal, Jason Quick, for being suspended over social media posts mocking the principal. The lawsuit was filed on July 19 and also names Derrick Crutchfield as a defendant.
The lawsuit argues that the suspension violated the student’s First Amendment rights. I.P. posted three images on his Instagram page, intending to satirize Quick’s serious demeanor. The posts showed Quick holding a box of vegetables, Quick dressed in a costume with cat ears and whiskers, and Quick’s face on a video game character being hugged by a cartoon bird. All images were posted from I.P.’s personal device, off-campus, and during his own time.
According to the lawsuit, the First Amendment prevents schools from controlling students’ speech outside of school hours, unless the expression causes a substantial disruption at school. The suit contends that the school’s policy prohibiting certain social media posts, regardless of disruption, is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit also highlights that there were no complaints or disruptions caused by the posts. It further states that I.P. was undergoing treatment for clinical depression and that the suspension led to a panic attack. Additionally, the suspension could impact the student’s future by affecting scholarship opportunities.
The plaintiffs seek to have the suspension removed from I.P.’s record, compensatory and punitive damages, and a declaration that the school’s social media policy is unconstitutional. Tullahoma City Schools has not provided comments on the ongoing litigation.