The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) will represent a Randolph County high school student who is facing expulsion for exercising his First Amendment rights to warn LGBTQ+ classmates of potential threats against their safety. 

Our client learned of the threats following anti-LGBTQ+ protests led by students who were outraged over a planned Tygarts Valley High School mural depicting a rainbow and proclaiming that all people are equal.

The student’s social media posts were shared outside of school hours. This June, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Mahanoy v. B.L. that schools are far more limited in policing student speech that occurs off campus than expression that occurs in school during school hours. The Court, citing the landmark case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which protected students’ rights to protest during school hours, noted it was clear that students “do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of expression.”

Nevertheless, the Superintendent of Randolph County Schools has recommended that the student be expelled for raising concerns about the threats. The student will be represented at the expulsion hearing by ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark.

 “Our client’s speech falls clearly within the purview of First Amendment protections and if the Randolph County School Board moves forward and expels him, it will be in violation of his free speech rights,” Stark said. “Further, we have seen over the past many years so many tragic incidents of mass violence in schools. To punish a student for simply attempting to warn others of potential serious harm will only discourage other students from coming forward to report and share concerns they may have about their own safety and the safety of others.”

ACLU-WV is keeping the name of the student confidential at this time to protect his and his family’s safety.