Student’s vulgar tweet sets off debate on First Amendment rights

Some call high school student’s expulsion for tweeting the F-word at home a violation of free-speech

High school senior Austin Carroll was expelled for tweeting the F-word. Image via Indiana's NewsCenter.

Austin Carroll claimed he was just trying to be funny when he posted a tweet demonstrating how the F-word can fit almost anywhere in a sentence.

Little could the teenager imagine that it would get him expelled from his Indiana high school and spark a new debate over the free-speech rights of students in the digital age.

David Hudson, a scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, told the Associated Press that the punishment was “an incredible overreach and overreaction that arguably raises not only First Amendment but Fourth Amendment issues,”

Carroll, 17, posted the tweet when he was at home last month. It was not directed at the school or any student, which would be considered bullying. He was expelled about a week later from Garrett High School with graduation just around the corner.

According to Carroll, the tweet read: “F*** is one of those f****** words you can f****** put anywhere in a f****** sentence and it still f****** make sense.”

“I thought it was pretty funny, the school didn’t think so, they thought it was inappropriate,” Carroll told Indiana’s NewsCenter. “I think it’s inappropriate, too, but I just did it to be funny…. I just want to be able to go back to regular school, go to prom and go to everything that a regular senior would get to do in their senior year.”

Carroll said he tweeted on his own time and on his own computer.

However, local superintendent Dennis Stockdale indicated that the post was done on a school computer.  Garrett High School, located about 20 miles north of Fort Wayne, Ind. with a student body of around 600, issues laptops to older students.

Carroll had received disciplinary action earlier in the year for posting a vulgar tweet on the school laptop and for attending class wearing a kilt.

His mother, Pam Smith, said the expulsion was an overreaction to her son’s earlier misbehaviors.

Carroll, who now attends an alternative school, will still be allowed to graduate but not be permitted to attend prom.