Free Speech

"There's a Rapist in Our School and You Know Who It Is"

A girl in a Maine public high school wrote this on a sticky note in a girls' bathroom; she was suspended for "bullying" a male student who was apparently seen as the target of the message—but a federal judge has stayed the suspension, concluding her speech was probably constitutionally protected.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From A.M. v. Cape Elizabeth School Dist., 2019 WL 5457999, decided Thursday by U.S. District Judge Lance E. Walker; it seems to me to be correct:

[A.] On September 16, 2019, A.M., a student at Cape Elizabeth High School, entered a girls' bathroom and placed a sticky note on a mirror reading, "THERE'S A RAPIST IN OUR SCHOOL AND YOU KNOW WHO IT IS." Within minutes, another student discovered the note and brought it to the attention of school administrators. However, later that day other female students engaged in copycat expression in another school bathroom.

Principal Jeffrey Shedd and Vice Principal Nate Carpenter instituted an investigation to determine authorship of the notes and who the notes might be referring to. In the course of their investigation they reviewed camera footage and determined that A.M. was the author of the initial note. The investigation was quite extensive. In all, Shedd, Carpenter and other members of the administration interviewed more than 40 students. Some of what they uncovered would be upsetting to certain students and their families and will not be recounted here. On September 20, 2019, Defendant Shedd sent an email to the school community at large, to which he attached a letter "about an incident in school this week."

Needless to say, the wide-ranging investigation and letter stirred up the hornet's nest of gossip and rumor. Eventually, a certain male student (identified by the parties as "Student 1") experienced what could be described as ostracism by his peers. Upset by his experience, Student 1 remained out of school for several days. Student 1's family informed the School that they considered the entire incident to be a matter of bullying and the school administrators ultimately decided that they agreed with that characterization.

On October 4, 2019, A.M. spoke with the press about her expressive activity and her concern with the School's handling of sexual assault allegations. Also on October 4, 2019, Defendants Shedd and Carpenter wrote a letter to A.M.'s family stating that A.M. "admitted and accepted responsibility for her actions." In the letter he advised that it was his conclusion that A.M. bullied Student 1. On that basis he imposed a three-day suspension and a warning "that any future actions of this sort … may result in further and more severe consequences up to and including suspension and possible expulsion." While A.M. received a three-day suspension, the other girls received shorter suspensions. The other girls either had not spoken with or were not featured by the press, although Defendants deny that this was a factor.

On October 9, 2019, Defendant Shedd wrote another missive to the community in which he summed up the investigation. In it he described the students who authored the sticky notes as having good but misguided intentions. He complained of the national attention the School had received, and he cast shame on members of the media who may have given any "credence" to the assertions contained in the sticky notes. He observed that the students responsible would be given "second chances" and would be able, in their senior years, to request expungement of their suspensions provided they maintain good records in the meantime. [A.M. sued, seeking a preliminary injunction that would block the suspension. -EV] …

[B.] As a threshold matter, for Plaintiff to succeed on her claim, her speech must fall under the protection of First Amendment. Defendants argue that the sticky note was defamatory—falsely accusing another student ("Student 1") of being a rapist—and as such is not protected by the First Amendment. For a statement such as A.M.'s to be defamatory it must be "concerning another" and there must be "fault amounting at least to negligence on the part of the publisher."

The record is not clear on either of these two points, and Defendants cannot convincingly show that the speech is otherwise undeserving of First Amendment protection…. [There is a] significant factual dispute over whether A.M.'s note referred to Student 1. Compare Response at 16 ("The administration convincingly found, however, that the statement was in fact directed at Student 1") with A.M. Decl at ¶ 33 ("at the time I posted the sticky note, I did not even know about the alleged videos [depicting Student 1]"). And even assuming A.M. meant to target Student 1 directly, there is also a live factual dispute over whether A.M. acted negligently in posting the note at all. Reply at 13 ("[A.M.] made a statement … that she believed in good faith to be true of numerous perpetrators in the school."); see also Oct. 9 Shedd Letter (characterizing A.M. as "well motivated, with good intentions"). If these factual disputes resolve in favor of Defendants, they may well undermine Plaintiff's claim; but at this preliminary stage the evidence suggesting her speech might have defamed Student 1 is not enough to undermine a finding that she is otherwise likely to succeed on the merits of her First Amendment claim.

[C.] The record is a mixed bag regarding whether A.M.'s speech was defamatory but speaks much more clearly that A.M.'s sticky note was a political statement…. Unlike the "bong hits" the plaintiff in Morse v. Frederick suggested for Jesus, A.M.'s note speaks out on a topic that is decidedly political. In analyzing whether a student's speech is protectable, I look at an objectively reasonable interpretation of the speech, not the speaker's motive. That inquiry may be informed by context, including the identity of the speaker.

By raising the specter of a rapist in the school and the administration's knowledge of his or her presence, A.M.'s note expresses political advocacy on a question of significant public consequence. Plaintiff insists she was commenting on "the crisis of sexual assault in public schools and the importance of appropriate school procedures to address it," which falls within the ambit of speech "commenting on [a] political or social issue."

Her speech not only contributes to this "political debate" about how schools handle sexual assault, but, if true, highlights a real safety concern for the students of Cape Elizabeth High School. Given the political nature of A.M.'s speech, and the guidance from the Supreme Court that "freedom of speech … guaranteed by the Constitution embraces at the least the liberty to discuss publicly and truthfully all matters of public concern without previous restraint or fear of subsequent punishment," I find A.M. likely engaged in speech protected by the First Amendment….

[C.] To overcome Plaintiff's First Amendment claim, Defendants must show their reason for suspending fits the recognized justifications in Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. School Dist. (1969). Under Tinker's "general rule," the government may restrict school speech that threatens to "materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school" or "inva[des] the rights of others." Other circuits to interpret this rule have required schools to show "a specific and significant fear of disruption, not just some remote apprehension of disturbance." …

Defendants maintain that the assertion, "THERE'S A RAPIST IN OUR SCHOOL," is so inherently disturbing that anyone who reads it would appreciate that school discipline would be disrupted. In support of this interpretation, Defendants assert someone might believe an active rapist was presently "walking the halls of the school building." At this stage of the proceedings, suffice it to say it is unlikely that Defendants will persuade me to accept this interpretation as reasonable. Students who seek to sound the hue and cry regarding an imminent threat in the school building do not do so by sticky note.

Defendants also argue that the sticky note actually disrupted school, justifying the punishment they meted out on A.M…. To show students experienced "fear" at A.M.'s note, the School points first to the "worried and concerned" student who in fact found the sticky note in the bathroom. Then, when the Defendants investigated the rape allegation, they argue that "dissemination of the statement interrupted the work of administrators for multiple hours over many days, interrupted the school routines of the 47 students interviewed and spread fear in the student body," resulting in further disruption. In essence, the Defendants argue they are justified in punishing A.M. because her note caused certain students to feel temporarily upset or unsafe, and certain administrators to spend their time investigating her allegation. This is less "disruption" than the school in Tinker had forecast, and not enough to justify prohibiting otherwise protectable First Amendment activity….

In Tinker, the black armbands "caused comments, warnings by other students, the poking of fun at them … a warning by an older football player that other, nonprotesting students had better let them alone," and the "wreck[ing]" of a math teacher's lesson period, none of which amounted to enough "disruption" to silence otherwise protected speech. The cases Defendants cite to support their argument highlight that "disruption" usually refers to actual threats of harm or violence.

Here, by contrast, there is no evidence that A.M.'s note incited violent behavior … or even "wrecked" any part of the academic schedule. The Assistant Principal's characterization of certain students as concerned about the note, and testimony that administrators spent time investigating the note, does not add up to "disruption" under Tinker which would undermine Plaintiff's showing of likelihood of success at this preliminary stage….

[D.] Defendants also attempt to justify their punishment of A.M.'s speech because it invaded the rights of other students, specifically Student 1, the alleged target of the note. Defendants argue that "A.M.'s unfounded statement interfered with Student 1's reputational rights … and his right not to be bullied in school." … In describing [the invades-the-rights-of-others] justification, the Court in Tinker gave the example of a student who "accosted other students by pinning the buttons on them even though they did not ask for one." I consider here whether A.M. invaded another student's rights with a similar level of clarity and directness as the … student referenced in Tinker.

At this preliminary stage, the record on the issue is decidedly mixed. For example, Defendants state that Plaintiff "admi[tted] that she intended to instill fear in the school" by posting the note. A.M., on the other hand, contends that "it was Principal Shedd who alleged that I was trying to instill fear. I did not say that was my intent." A.M. also claims to have audio recordings of her meetings with administrators that refute Defendants' contention that she directed her note at Student 1. Without a clear factual connection between A.M.'s note and Student 1, I cannot find that her sticky note "invaded" Student 1's rights under Tinker. Therefore, Defendants' adjudication that A.M. bullied Student 1 does not undermine Plaintiff's showing of likelihood of success on her First Amendment claim.

Defendants also stress that A.M. "egregiously minimizes the trauma she caused to Student 1." I highlight that particular word to pause on a troublesome point of Defendants' argument; though Defendants hastily point out that A.M. was adjudicated to have "bullied" Student 1 under Cape Elizabeth High School's bullying policy, they do not closely link her protected speech to the actual harm he suffered…. A.M. posted a sticky note in the girl's bathroom that stayed up for a matter of minutes, did not specifically name an individual, did not use photos, and arguably targeted the administration—the "you" in the note—rather than the "rapist." Because the record does not speak with any clarity that A.M.'s note, in fact, caused reputational and educational harm to Student 1, I find that Defendants have failed to undermine Plaintiff's showing of likelihood of success on her First Amendment claim by pointing to this second Tinker justification.

E.] [An allegation of unlawful conduct is, generally speaking, not a worthy object of punishment unless the allegation is frivolous…. Defendants argue, however, that it is how one goes about it that matters here. They say Plaintiff did not channel her grievance through the proper channels. But Plaintiff has a right to express her viewpoint, and if her viewpoint is non-frivolous and is delivered by a means that will not likely cause a breakdown in school discipline or invade the rights of another student, then it is not deserving of punishment.

That does not mean the public is compelled to celebrate Plaintiff's expression. Indeed, the public remains free to reject Plaintiff's viewpoint. Nevertheless, the public has an interest in knowing that neither Plaintiff nor any other student who expresses a comparable view in similar fashion will be denied access to school simply because her viewpoint offends the sensibilities of school administrators. Something more is necessary to justify punishment.

If school administrators receive carte blanche to tamp down and vet non-frivolous outcries on topics of social justice, expressed in areas generally associated with free student communication, where would that leave us? Contemporary examples abound of betrayal of free speech principles to avoid ideas or speakers with whom we disagree. Madison would recoil. Individual liberty is both the cause and the result of personal fortitude. "The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults." That ability, in turn, depends on the free flow of ideas, especially those that are discomfiting.

To my view, the concern over the ability of students to express outrage over something happening in the school community gives rise to the concern expressed by Justice Alito and seconded by Justice Kennedy in Morse, that there should be "no support for any restriction of speech that can plausibly be interpreted as commenting on any political or social issue," based merely on concern over the school's ability to carry out is "educational mission." Such a formulation of the test invites school administrators to "inculcate[e] … whatever political and social views" they hold to the detriment of student expression.

There is some evidence that this may be going on here. Defendants have demonstrated a relatively intense desire to control messaging about the health of their high school environment and to demonstrate to the public at large that they have the matter well in hand. They have even gone so far as to state that A.M.'s concerns lack factual support, although it is not apparent on this record that A.M.'s concerns are in fact frivolous. {During the motion hearing, Defendants made the startling argument that it does not matter for purposes of the First Amendment analysis whether A.M.'s statement that "there's a rapist in our school" was true or false.}

In short, the right of the public to hear or read expression concerning the operation of the public schools and the existence of dangers within the school environment may, at times, depend on the right of members of the student body to express themselves in the school environment without fear of retribution. The public interest is, accordingly, in league with the Plaintiff insofar as she asks that the suspension be stayed pending further consideration of her free speech claim….

NEXT: Presidential Power and the Wall

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  1. “A girl in a Maine public high school … was suspended … but a federal judge has stayed the suspension”

    lol … do the details even matter?

  2. Sounds wrong under Tinker. If a student believed he was being accused of rape, that’s certainly a disruption. But Tinker’s a bad decision.

  3. Can we also post unsubstantiated notes in the school saying ‘Justin pooped his pants.’ or ‘There is a whore who sleeps with the teachers’? even if everybody will be able to figure out who its referring to? How about something like ‘There are rowdy Muslim students that need to assimilate’ or ‘women should go to their own school’ Maybe they can be non frivolous political topics too.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing in favor of these types of rules but if it goes it should go away evenly and fairly rather than just carving out a super special exemption for budding militant feminists to spark witchhunts and hysteria.

    1. If school administrators receive carte blanche to tamp down and vet non-frivolous outcries on topics of social justice

      The court is making it very clear what types of speech will be protected.

  4. Sheesh, “bullying”? “Sticks and stones”, people.

    When I was that age, “bullying” involved contusions, not hurt feelings. I was bullied in elementary until I finally decided to ignore my teachers’ insane advice and fight back, and if somebody had just posted unpleasant notes indirectly referring to me, instead of kicking me in the balls, I’d have fallen on my knees and thanked God.

    I’m not saying this sort of nonsense shouldn’t result in school discipline, but, “bullying”?

    1. “When I was that age, ‘bullying’ involved contusions, not hurt feelings”

      I believe you. But, for your recollections to be relevant, you need to apply them to the current situation. Although I would suggest that if you were to speak to some of the female population of people approximately your age, you’d find that they encountered ‘bullying’ of the sort you deride.

    2. In an age where colleges will rescind an invitation and employers a job when an accuser of any kind crops up or just a sniff of wrong doing by a boy to a girl is caught, I don’t really fault the school for pressing hard on this. If his name is spread widely and he can’t disprove it, he’s toxic. No job with advancement is going to want him, simply because they don’t want to need him in the future. If he were to fight back it’d make everything worse. Not because the bullies won’t stop, but because the school system crushes people who do that. The asymmetric treatment of boys and girls on these matters make it way too risky if he wants to go to college.

      1. That may be true, but as the decision states at length, her expressive actions would not have been the cause of all that. She didn’t identify anyone by name.

    3. Weird (and possible scary) counterposition here.

      I too was bullied (like all males), and of the physical variety (the verbal form between young males isn’t really bullying in most cases, but mostly friendly jibes directed at each other – when boys really dislike each other it gets physical). This continued until my senior year in high school, when (after learning how to wrestle) I threw my assailant into a tree and knocked him out (which for some reason I got punished…. “zero tolerance” idiocy).

      So far this is a pretty typical boyhood story… but later that year a freshman shot 13 people (one of whom I carried off as he dripped blood on me). His primary complaint? Bullying, of the exclusively verbal variety.

      It’s a small sample size, but makes me wonder: is the rise in school shootings (unrelated to gang activity) in part because boys are no longer allowed a physical outlet? In conversation with my elders, I’ve heard that pre 1980 or so puberty age boys were regularly engaged in minor fights, with the sole result spending the rest of the day in the principals office.

      Has anyone seen any studies along those lines?

  5. Is all “bullying” not free speech if not a the expression of a threat of violence?

    1. In schools under the Tinker standard there is speech that is neither an assault (“I’m going to kill you”) nor protected by the first amendment, under essentially a parens patriae theory (the school takes the place of the parent while kids are at school).

      The key component under Tinker is whether the expression actually causes disruption. Standing up in the middle of class and continuously singing as loud as you can is an easy case. Wearing an American flag shirt on Cinco de Mayo is a stupid case (actual example, was not reviewed by the Supreme Court), while wearing black arm bands to protest war was the original example in Tinker.

  6. So, under this standard, could Student 1 post notes saying “We now know who the lying whore is” without receiving discipline?
    When I complained to a nun about being bullied, she asked if if I thought she would always be around to solve my problems and that I already knew what to do. She was right.

    1. What is “political” about an accusation of rape against one specific student?

      The note said “YOU” and was posted in a student bathroom, it is a giant stretch to say “YOU” meant the “administration’s knowledge of his or her presence”.

      The girls testimony is post event lawyer-ing to make the accusation “political” rather than unprotected disruption.

      1. Comment is not a response to Goju really, don’t know why it nested.

      2. But how is that disruptive itself?

        If other students react in a way that’s disruptive, then the other students should be sanctioned, as they are the ones being disruptive. Anything else is a hecklers veto.

        For fun, what do you do about the highly promiscuous cheerleader who learns that she has chlamydia and gonorrhea? Not telling her partners actively harms them, telling all 90 members of the football team quietly and in private will assuredly lead to disruption. Is she allowed to tell them something it would be unethical not to?

  7. my favorite part of the decision:

    “I, on the other hand,
    consider the issue a very close one. ”

    would you say that is fair eugene?

    here is the black box on defamation from my perspective:

    “The record is not clear on either of these two points, and Defendants
    cannot convincingly show that the speech is otherwise undeserving of First Amendment
    protection. ”

    Perhaps because of the portions of the record omitted so as to spare the feelings or reputations or some involved, it is difficult for an outside observer to understand whether the message can be read as a statement with respect to student 1 and, if it was, what student 1 might have done to elicit such a depiction and whether anyone who read the message could have reason to interpret it as criticism of administration of such claims generally or rather as lashing out for justice from a particular individual who did not objectively deserve the stark depiction. In other words, do the circumstances illustrate speech with a “fault
    amounting at least to negligence on the part of the publisher.”

    Again, lacking the record, it is difficult to imagine whether the note is meant to grind an axe over individual adjudication or is meant to depict a lax administrative culture on the issue.

    The actual interesting thing here is that someone felt ostracized over whatever boorish or criminal behavior is accurately, or inaccurately, alleged. Maybe that is not a bad thing even if the target may have been undeserving of the particularized terminology. For instance, much as the Duke Lacrosse team was undeserving of criminal prosecution, they nonetheless might have been deserving of, or could not complain in injunctive manner of the mob justice of ostracism for their lascivious behavior.

    Speaking of not being able to complain, however, I am in a bit of wonderment at the irreparable harm finding. The court invokes the precedential notion that even a brief loss of first amendment rights is an irreparable harm. But here, that loss is alleged to result not from the suspension itself, but from the subsequent conditions for behavior required to retain good standing. The loss of the benefit of 3 days of school does not seem to me to constitute irreparable harm that on balance outweighs the government interest in administering the school environment. The school could have been enjoined from further punishment in that regard upon the return of the student pending the motion for final injunction, thus not rendering the final injunctive relief moot while interfering less in relatively standard disciplinary practice.

    To the extent that those conditions chill A.M.’s free speech then those conditions could be vacated but i don’t see setting aside the suspension. I’m not saying the decision is objectively right or wrong and we lack virtually the entire record of the investigation (which there seems to be some evidence that the investigation itself and communication from the administration lead to the poor outcomes for student 1. sometimes it’s just smart to suggest to someone who posts something pejorative in a relatively limited forum to exercise care in distinguishing personal accusations and political speech and let it go at that instead of going all Russian Collusion on it. But I digress.

    1. flagged my own comment for review, guess that is the way to get eugene’s attention, but i was looking for the edit function for a couple typos. such is life.

      1. No edit function,and unless flagging on volokh works differently than regular Reason, no one checks those

    2. There are two statements of fact if the original note. Neither one refers specifically to a person. Therefore, when a person steps up and says “I was defamed”, they have a burden of proving that anyone else had a reason to understand that they were referred to by either statement. I mean “there’s a rapist at our school” could be referring to anyone, and is statistically possibly true. “You know who it is” could also be referring to anyone. So again, the person who steps up to say “I was defamed by this” runs into a problem in that if anyone knew about it, it’s actually true, and therefore categorically not defamation. The note doesn’t say “everybody” knows who it is, it says “you” know who it is. So, since the note isn’t addressed to any specific person, it can be said to have been meant for one person for whom it was true.

  8. Is histrionics illegal? Is too much ever enough?

  9. “good but misguided intentions”

    ?

    Why did she post it?

    The lawyers and judges are entirely uninterested as to what had really happened, and what was important to the everyday lives of these students.

    1. I remember something about some road being paved with good intentions.

      1. And the road that’s paved with *bad* intentions . . . where does that lead to?

        1. Election?

  10. There’s a rapist in our school and you know who it is.
    I (and I suspect most people) would interpret this to be a serious and troubling charge of serious and specific criminality, not some vague commentary on society. The school seems like it was on sound footing to investigate and discourage false allegations like this.

    How should the next school respond to notes like this?

    There’s a thief in our school and you know who it is.

    There’s a prostitute in our school and you know who it is.

    There’s a child molester in our school and you know who it is.

    1. I agree, and I am very dubious of the claim by the young woman that she was talking about multiple rapists, or the issue of rape in general, and not targeting an individual. Besides the wording of the note clearly saying “a rapist”, she was quoted in a local news article as saying: “I was told someone made a complaint that I was bullying them. So I thought, why is this person self-identifying as the (alleged) rapist?”

      It’s difficult to make a judgement without all the details, but to me this seems like a student trying to spread rumors more than raise awareness of a “political” issue.

      1. It sounds to me like she’s being too clever by half. She’s clearly referring to someone specific and deliberately trying to word it so as to not have to take responsibility for it.

        The school was right to suspend her. That kind of bullshit shouldn’t be tolerated. Any accusation of someone being a rapist is way too serious for anyone to try to make clever insinuations about.

        1. Agree.

    2. The problem is that it is vague. It doesn’t name the names. That’s what makes it not defamatory, but it also doesn’t identify an offense. (“a rapist among us” might be a reference to a current offense, being covered up, or it might be a reference to a long-ago offense, being covered up)

    3. one of these things is not like the others.

    4. Yes, a serious and troubling charge that resulted in the social ostracism of a real, identifiable person — NOT, as the judge would have it “non-frivolous outcries on topics of social justice.”

      Social justice indeed! The judge is injecting unwarranted ideology into the common enough experience among adolescents of organizing social opprobrium. This isn’t as bad as the case where two different high school girls accused a boy of sexual assault — leading to his arrest and placement in juvenile detention — because they “didn’t like him.” But it’s bad enough and common enough.

      https://reason.com/2018/10/17/seneca-valley-mean-girls-false-sexual/

  11. Looks very much to me like textbook Title IX hostile work environment as regards the male student. Surprisingly enough, there seems to have been due process here, which is a bit odd in that context.

    (This ignores how well Title IX comports with the 1st Amendment, but that seems traditional when discussing Title IX.)

    1. None of that is really relevant, since the post was about the 1st amendment issue concerning the girl’s note and subsequent suspension.

  12. There’s about a 25% this will end up as a TV movie.

  13. It’s not “bullying” since she didn’t name anyone in particular. It’s vandalism/littering so she should still be suspended.

    1. Vandalism? Seriously?

    2. “It’s not “bullying” since she didn’t name anyone in particular.”

      Someone else might have.

    3. “It’s vandalism/littering, so she could still be suspended.”–Yes, if you apply the James Wagner/Sasha Volokh standard, where chalking Trump slogans on vertical (the horror!) surfaces is vandalism and calls for university discipline.

  14. If wearing an American Flag on your shirt is considered “disruption” in the 9th Circuit, I don’t think it is a far logical leap to suggest calling a fellow student a “rapist” is going to result in substantial disruption. I suspect this is “ends justifies the means” judicial activism given today’s political environment.

    1. Or maybe it’s just a sensible decision, since she didn’t call a fellow student a rapist.

  15. Let’s try a hypothesis: Student 1 is a socially inept boy with Asperger’s, and a habitual bullying target among a group, including A.M. That would be consistent with quite a bit of otherwise hard-to-explain backstory. It would provide insight into:

    Why so many students were interviewed.

    Why the apparently vague identification of the alleged rapist was not treated as an important factor.

    Why, “Some of what they uncovered would be upsetting to certain students and their families and will not be recounted here.”

    Why the alleged bullies were punished, but also attributed with well-meaning (apparently confused) intent.

    Why an opportunity to expunge the suspension records was extended.

    Why the press was admonished.

    Why Student 1 decided to stay home.

    I suggest EV’s analysis is bold to the point of going too far. He ought to constrain his judgment until he knows more. The conclusions EV reaches about political speech, etc., would certainly make much of the account of what happened more perplexing, rather than less. Any of an assortment of other possible explanations would seem more likely.

    1. “Why the alleged bullies were punished, but also attributed with well-meaning (apparently confused) intent.”

      This one isn’t too hard. If the third parties thought they were acting to expose a rapist, they would have thought they were on the right side and if they were right about that, they WOULD have been on the right side.

      I suspect the content omitted because “Some of what they uncovered would be upsetting to certain students and their families and will not be recounted here.” is discovery of consensual sex that was discovered only because they used coercive means of interrogation.

      1. James, certainly can’t rule out your hypotheses. I do have trouble understanding why if they are accurate Student 1, and especially the administration, ended up with a conclusion that this was a case of bullying. Not saying some story which fits the facts could not turn out that way, but it does not strike me as a an easy or natural conclusion to reach. I am suggesting that the non-zebra explanation is that if bullying was attributed, then a classical bullying scenario is more likely.

  16. If a hired killer is killed in the process of trying to carry out the contract, but dies as a result of a lethal boobytrap installed in the target’s home by the target himself, who is on the hook for the death? Is it felony homicide by the person who placed the contract or manslaughter by the home owner for creating a potentially lethal environment? The home owner doesn’t know when or if a current contract has been placed on his life, but he has been a target in the past.
    I ask because these very elements were present in an episode of this show:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_Vendetta

  17. Title IX cannot do an end run around the First Amendment, but I am a little intrigued by the lack of any analysis on the legal obligations of the school to respond to both the implicit allegation of sexual assault and potential that unfounded accusations of sexual assault have on the educational climate for male students.

  18. I can imagine someone who doesn’t get satisfaction in court just putting this on the back burner for a year, and then coming up behind the girl and cracking her a broken cheekbone.

    Not that I’d be in favor of it. Not me. No sirree bob!

  19. Not sure why this isn’t looked at more like an anonymous criminal allegation.

    The school (very appropriately) did an investigation, found it to be unsubstantiated, and apparently decided that the young lady made a false allegation – and too, the appropriate action.

    I don’t see this as being different from someone calling 911 to report a house burning, FD responds, and there isn’t a fire, then an investigation figures out who made the false call – and is appropriately punished.

    I don’t see any free-speech issues here at all.

  20. I really don’t understand what point she was trying to make, if not that there was a specific person who had committed rape and the girls of the school (ie, the people who’d actually read a note posted in the girls bathroom, not the administration) know who it is. That’s not a political statement, it’s an invitation to conduct a witch hunt. I don’t blame the school for cracking down on it.

  21. Why can you yell rape in a school but not fire in a theater?

    1. Title IX.

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