First Amendment & Free Speech; Social Media; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Title IX; Constitutional Issues; Faculty & Staff; Retaliation
Yeasin v. Durham (D. Kan. Dec. 1, 2016)
The Vice Provost of Student Affairs at the University of Kansas expelled Plaintiff for posting comments on social media about his ex-girlfriend, another student at the University, that were found to be so "severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive" that they interfered with his ex-girlfriend’s education. Plaintiff sued, claiming that the Vice Provost had retaliated against him in violation of his First Amendment rights. Acknowledging that circuit courts have come to conflicting conclusions about whether institutions can punish students for online speech made off-campus, the Court held that the University likely had the authority to take action against Plaintiff because his comments implicated the Student Code of Conduct, the University's sexual harassment policy, and Title IX. Moreover, even if Plaintiff had the right to post the comments, the First Amendment right allegedly violated by the Vice Provost was not clearly established such that it would have been clear that the expulsion was unlawful.