After being suspended for three days for posting sarcastic memes directed at his school principal on Instagram, a Tennessee high school student is suing his school district and administration for infringing on his freedom of speech.
The federal lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in the Eastern District of Tennessee Winchester Division, does not name the Tullahoma High School student, who is only known by initials. Tullahoma is located around 75 miles southeast of Nashville.
“This case is about a thin-skinned high school principal defying the First Amendment and suspending a student for lampooning the principal on the student’s Instagram page even though the posts caused no disruption at school,” according to the suit.
Tullahoma City Schools, Principal Jason Quick, and Vice Principal Derrick Crutchfield, the administrators involved in the student’s suspension, are named as defendants in the complaint.
NBC News tried to reach the school district for comment. On Monday, a person who answered the phone at Tullahoma High School claimed no one from the school is commenting.
According to the lawsuit, the kid, who is approaching his senior year this school year, began posting on Instagram during summer vacation. On May 22, 2022, the student, known as I.P., uploaded a photograph generated by another user to I.P.’s personal Instagram.
The image showed Principal Jason Quick holding a box of fruit and vegetables, a photo originally posted by Quick to his own social media account. Another poster, the suit said, added the text “My brotha” to the image. I.P. saved that post and added the text “like a sister but not a sister <33.”
The post was meant to suggest “a close friendship between I.P. and Quick and to provide a humorous contrast to Quick’s overly serious demeanour towards I.P. and other students,” the lawsuit said.
In another post, from June 9, 2022, I.P. reposted an image created by another user to his personal Instagram page showing Quick as an anime cat, with whiskers, cat ears and wearing a dress.
A third post on the student’s Instagram account was created on August 2, 2022, the lawsuit said. The student posted an image “showing Quick’s head superimposed on a hand-drawn cartoon meant to resemble a character from the online game Among Us. The image also shows a cartoon bird named Mordecai, from the Cartoon Network series Regular Show, shown clinging to Quick’s leg,” the suit said.
All of the images were posted while I.P. was not on school property, the suit says.