Layshock v. Hermitage School District

In December 2005, high school senior Justin Layshock created a MySpace page parodying his principal, Eric Trosch. Layshock used a photograph of Trosch and answered a series of survey questions to fill out the profile that mocked the principal. School administrators learned questioned Layshock about the profile, and he admitted to creating it and apologized to Trosch. Later, Layshock learned he was being suspended and placed in an alternative education program for the remainder of the year.

Layshock’s parents sued the school district, arguing that punishing their son for off-campus speech was a violation of his First Amendment rights. The school countered that while his speech was made off-campus, it still made its way into the school and disrupted operations. A district court ruled in favor of Layshock.

The SPLC brief argued that Supreme Court precedent prohibits a school from punishing students for off-campus speech. Both Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District and Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier concern speech that occurs within a school, while Morse v. Frederick and Bethel School District v. Fraser concern speech at school-sponsored events. Secondly, the brief argued that while Layshock’s speech was lewd and offensive, it did not create a sizable disruption to the school.

Read the opinion.