Hate Speech

Teen Arrested Under Connecticut's Unconstitutional Hate Speech Law for Racist Social Media Post

Calling a classmate a racist slur on Snapchat is offensive. It’s also protected speech.

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Folks may not know that Connecticut has a hate speech law, possibly under the completely correct assumption that the First Amendment prohibits the federal government and states from enacting them.

Nevertheless, a 16-year-old white high school student in Fairfield, Connecticut, has been arrested and charged with "ridicule on account of creed, religion, color, denomination, or race" for a Snapchat post where the teen displayed a picture of a black classmate and reportedly captioned it with a racial slur and racist comments. Violating this 1917 law is a misdemeanor with a potential $50 fine and a possible jail sentence of up to 30 days. The student has also been charged with breach of the peace.

The teen's name has not been released. According to WABC's coverage of the incident, the student posted a picture of classmate Jamar Medor and called Medor the N-word, adding, "Why is he not in chains?" Medor and his mother, Judith, spoke out about the offensive post, and Medor's mother wants the offender expelled from the school.

Associated Press reporter Dave Collins has taken an unfortunate "experts say" approach to discussing the underlying law used to justify the teen's arrest. He quotes Emerson Sykes, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, pointing out that this Connecticut law is unconstitutional. Sykes says, "Having racist ideas or sharing racist ideas is something that we actually protect. Even if that viewpoint is offensive, even if it's deplorable, we don't want the government making the call about what's OK to say and think and what is not."

Sykes is absolutely factually correct here, but Collins treats this as just one expert opinion among many. He gives equal space to Rev. D. Stanley Lord, president of the Greater Bridgeport NAACP. Lord's organization supports criminal charges for the Snapchat post. Lord told the A.P., "We have to send a strong message that behavior like this won't be tolerated in any school system."

Whether school systems have the authority to punish offensive messages posted off campus is a completely separate matter currently being considered by the Supreme Court. Arresting the teen and charging that teen with a crime is indisputably a violation of the teen's First Amendment rights, and Connecticut's law should be struck down as unconstitutional.

Hate speech is protected speech in America. Citizens cannot be charged with a crime for expressing racist opinions. People can call for hate crime punishments all they want, but the First Amendment, as written and currently enforced, simply doesn't allow them.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has been watching the case and researched the application of the Connecticut law. He notes that the wording of the law actually suggests it's only supposed to apply to advertisements, not broad speech. But Volokh looked over cases where the law has been applied, and it has never been used in that fashion. It is instead used against people using racist or religious slurs in confrontations.

Volokh observes that the law is inherently unconstitutional because it suppresses speech on the basis of content and viewpoint, reminding us that "there's no First Amendment exception for speech that insults on the basis of race or religion."

The A.P. notes that last year lawmakers introduced a bill that would have repealed the law, but it died after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the state legislature to end the session early. In 2019, two college students were charged with violating the law after they were heard saying a racial slur while walking through the parking lot of a dorm. The two students agreed to probation which should ultimately end with the charges being purged.

But they shouldn't have been arrested at all, and this high school student shouldn't have been arrested either. That doesn't mean parents and the school should necessarily turn a blind eye to a teen's racist ranting. But that a leader of the NAACP is actually calling for the arrest of a teen for speech is profoundly and shockingly ignorant of the role policing in schools has played in destructively dragging minority kids into the criminal justice system for petty reasons.

NEXT: USPS Uses Facial Recognition and Other High-Tech Tools To Monitor Social Media

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  1. Don’t worry, conservatives and lolberts will send a strongly worded letter again.

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  2. The determination to pretend that “law” is somehow objective and has nothing to do with power is a particularly Anglo obsession. That’s why James Burnham said the defining element of Anglo political thought is hypocrisy. h/t anon

    1. Why not. We pretend racism is a strictly Anglo obsession.

  3. Yet more proof of systemic racism – a white person being arrested for insulting a black person.

    1. The group of people you’re not allowed to name protects the group of people you’re not allowed to criticize.

  4. Seeing as there is no showing of the caption I’m guessing there is a 50-50 chance they were dating and the caption was “my nigga”.

  5. Trumptards calling Reason tReason go cricket, cricket silent

    1. How?

      By pointing out the lunacy of having this and that idiot article by Gillespie about how Facebook is right to ban Trump up at the same time?

      Calling it tReason is being generous

  6. That doesn’t mean parents and the school should necessarily turn a blind eye to a teen’s racist ranting.

    To be sure.

    The school needs to ignore the racism and discipline the kid for taking a photo against the subject’s will (assuming the photo was taken on school grounds) in line with policies about photographing the public at large pretty much anywhere else in the country. Snapchat is not within the school system’s purview and it’s not like we’d all approve if he’d taken a picture of a girl and was posting about what a slut she was or a picture of a Jew and wondered why he isn’t in a labor camp somewhere.

    Using the school system as a cheap substitute for investigative and legal services gets you the justice and laws you paid for.

    1. Taking a photo “against the subject’s will” is not against the law pretty much anywhere as long as the subject is in a public place (and school grounds generally are).

      1. allowed under USC 18

    2. taking a photo against the subject’s will (assuming the photo was taken on school grounds) in line with policies about photographing the public at large pretty much anywhere else in the country

      I’m not even sure what the part in bold is even supposed to mean…but I suspect that it’s an indication that you’re confused about the law as it pertains to photography in public.

  7. Violating this 1917 law is a misdemeanor with a potential $50 fine and a possible jail sentence of up to 30 days. The student has also been charged with breach of the peace.

    Interesting how, back in 1917, these prescient public servants had the foresight to know their law would be correctly used to punish schoolchildren for using their cellphones to be racist to each other on Snapchat. Also interesting that, in their prescience, they never seem to have mentioned section 230 being a requisite to having an internet or, apparently, come up with a better solution.

    1. “… back in 1917, these prescient public servants had the foresight to know their law would be correctly used to punish schoolchildren for using their cellphones to be racist to each other on Snapchat.”

      “.. back in 1789, these prescient public servants had the foresight to believe their law would be correctly interpreted and accepted when enshrined as an American’s God given right, not to be infringed, to procure the firearms of their choosing even though people would be murderous and otherwise criminal toward one another with its use.

      Someone, intellectually consistent like yourself, would certainly agree, amirite.

      There is nothing casual about your madness.

  8. “”Using the school system as a cheap substitute for investigative and legal services gets you the justice and laws you paid for.””

    Perhaps it’s an attempt to get around restrictions on government, much like using the post office to spy on people.

  9. “Calling a classmate a racist slur on Snapchat is offensive. It’s also protected speech.”

    According to Reason contributor Noah Berlatsky, it shouldn’t be. Everyone should read his excellent piece Is the First Amendment too broad? The case for regulating hate speech in America.

    #BringBackBerlatsky

    1. Everyone should burn this absurd drivel. One of the worst things about the digital age is the lack of combustibility.

    2. Berlatsky is entitled to express his opinion – assuming he is arguing for an amendment to the constitution. OTOH, if he is advising people to ignore the 1st amendment and has a law license, he should lose that license for malpractice. If he is advising people to ignore the 1st amendment and does not have a law license, he should be prosecuted and jailed for practicing law without a license.

  10. Associated Press reporter Dave Collins has taken an unfortunate “experts say” approach

    To be sure.

    1. Journalists are the enemy of the people. They always have been, and our great grandparents knew this. Then something changed. After World War 2, journalists started working closely with Intel agencies to do their bidding in the public sphere. In the 60s and 70s, this intensified. At the same time, demographics of the journalist class changed from hard-nosed, gritty, blue collar types to smarmy, neurotic prep school babies. The transformation completed in the Obama years when virtually every reporter in the industry went to prep school and either a shrew, frumpy woman or a feckless skinny-fat beta male — all of which work closely with the woke security state to push lies and propaganda on the American people.

      1. Not too far fetched, sad to say.

        1. Which part was even approaching “far-fetched”?

  11. You know how black parents needs to have uncomfortable conversations with their kids about how to survive interactions with the police? Turns out white parents need to have similar conversations with their kids about how to survive interactions with black people.

    1. I think someone got memory holed for that. John Derbyshire?

    2. reminds me of the folks on twitter calling for violence against others because “you used the n-word, you’re not free from consequences”.

      1. Don’t they usually say, “your not free from consequences”?

        1. That’s racist.

  12. Doesn’t matter leftie shits want hate speech laws and Prince Harry says we’re bonkers. He wants us to be like England, cops arresting people for saying something outrageous.

    Lefties = traitors = terrorists

  13. “Hate speech is protected speech in America.”

    That should have been written, “Speech is protected in America.” But then I’m an ideologue who believes in absolutes. Good, bad, or ugly.

    1. Wish I’d said that.

  14. “Hate speech is protected speech in America. Citizens cannot be charged with a crime for expressing racist opinions. People can call for hate crime punishments all they want, but the First Amendment, as written and currently enforced, simply doesn’t allow them.”

    Bets?

  15. >>Calling a classmate a racist slur on Snapchat is offensive

    the thing about offense is it requires taking.

    1. This is the problem with classical liberalism and “enlightenment” ideals that permeate modernity.

      “No one may infringe on my rights” quickly becomes “No one may infringe on my feelings.”

      1. what makes Shackford cry might not even bother the intended target, who knows? can’t outlaw subjective.

    2. The response to “that’s offensive” should usually be “so what?”. Nothing else happens. Being offended doesn’t actually hurt.

      1. I think the current plan is “if we keep saying words are violence, eventually people will believe it”

    3. If the student were 18 and named, a campaign to mail unicorn trophies to them would be appropriate.

  16. But that a leader of the NAACP is actually calling for the arrest of a teen for speech is profoundly and shockingly ignorant of the role policing in schools has played in destructively dragging minority kids into the criminal justice system for petty reasons.

    The kid’s white, so what’s the problem?

    1. He’s pointing out that a leader of the NAACP is familiar with, and likely speaks out about the school to criminal justice system pipeline, is in fact happy to use it against others when it suits him.

  17. “We have to send a strong message that behavior like this won’t be tolerated….” Is the telegraph still a thing? A severely worded telegram would be a very strong message.

    1. What ” mesage” is sent by mostly White Legislatures and Judges OK-ing aborting mostly black babies?

      Same ones that make hate speech law?

  18. Since this persons Snapchat post is protected free speech ???? this person should never even have been arrested / charged in the first place. The E Sykes comment is correct but, of course A NAACP President would support charges meanwhile anyone even slightly Coloured can say any slur against white people and Whitepeople have to sit back taking it. White people of today are not responsible for abuses by past generations of white people. How is this Law even a Law if it’s unconstitutional then it should have been vetoed and never signed into law.

    1. “White people have to sit back taking it…”
      Have to? Please cite a white person that even acknowledges “bad words” as something to care about.

  19. So ” Hate Whitey” is still OK?

    Just trying to keep score.

    This is not a Hate Speech issue.

    Its speech against Government. 1984 for real.

  20. PS. Interesting the legal system with cops and investigators that can fabricate data and hack cimputers to plant evidence can claim they got something on lune thsts admissibke as evidence?

    “Prove (s) he made the comment and that a FL cop didnt plant the evidence on line after stealing his/ her Snapchat login.”

  21. OK, a teenager exhibits bad judgement. That is why teenagers are considered minor children. The brains are not fully developed yet. Hate speech laws make an assumption about the emotional state of an individual when only the individual knows what their emotional state really is. Hate speech is speech allowed under our Constitution. The SCOTUS has not declared these laws unconstitutional yet. I hope this case gets to SCOTUS so they can make that declaration.

    1. The SCOTUS has not declared these laws unconstitutional yet.

      Yes they have…repeatedly.

      1. But under Social Justice anything goes. We were infected with un Cinstitutional Obama Care on the ” end justifies the means” doctrine.

  22. Protecting people from ridicule “on account of creed, religion, color, denomination, or race” is in fact ridiculing people of creed, religion, color denomination and race.

    It is demeaning to create these laws which only apply to certain groups. Everyone is open to ridicule but mostly they do not have laws or rules which aim to protect them from ridicule. They deal with it at the personal level and move on. They have the capacity as human beings to not allow ridicule to deflect them from their chosen path in society.

    What these laws effectively say is that people of creed, religion, color, denomination and race do not have this capacity. They are too weak and lack the ability to put ridicule into any kind of personal perspective. They are not given the same benefit of doubt that everyone else is given by lawmakers.

    Perhaps the lawmakers need to be put on trial and questioned about why they have such negative views of these people. Are those views patronising or even in some cases racist? Why don’t they see all human beings as equals? Its time these laws were challenged for what they really are.

    1. Fill in theblank:

      “Well have those _______ voting Democrat for 200 years.”

      Amish?

      1. Chinese citizens

      2. muted, troll

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  24. Hate speech is protected speech in America

    The Constitution says that Congress shall make no law against such speech. That’s all it says. States certainly can make such laws under the Constitution as written, though not under the legal doctrine of incorporation.

  25. The arrest of a Connecticut high school student accused of posting racist comments about a Black classmate on social media is being supported by civil rights advocates, but free speech groups are calling it an unusual move by police that raises First Amendment issues. ونش رفع عفش بفيصل

    A 16-year-old student in a classroom at Fairfield Warde High School allegedly took a photo of a Black classmate and posted it on Snapchat on May 7 with a caption that included a racial slur and racist comments. The teen who made the post is white, according to the Black student’s mother.

  26. “Why is he not in chains?” Medor and his mother, Judith, spoke out about the offensive post, and Medor’s mother wants the offender expelled from the school.

    No can do. Off-campus activities and social media posts which include bullying fellow students is hands-off.

    1. That doesn’t mean parents and the school should necessarily turn a blind eye to a teen’s racist ranting.

      ?!!

      Cole responded by stressing the need for “clear definitions of off-campus bullying and harassment consistent with First Amendment principles.” He concluded by reminding the Court that the school punished this particular student “for a momentary expression of frustration on a weekend out of school.” To let that be the rule, he said, “would teach students they can never speak candidly with their friends without worrying that a school official will deem their views potentially disruptive and suspend them or punish them. That is exactly the wrong lesson to teach.”

  27. Our madness continues to escalate! Arresting kids for racial slurs? Putting minors away for life? Firing and banning people because what they say offends people? Out of control. I would be identified as “Black” by all who buy into the system of racialization that dominates our society. Just sad :(.

    1. It’s not about blacks – it’s about derailing the systemic corruption of the justice system by playing the race card.

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  29. “Why is he not in chains?”

    See, Biden was right all along.

  30. I would like to hear why the post was made? I doubt it was just a spur of the moment out of the blue action. When people are angry they will say what ever they believe will affect the person they are mad at. Knowing how sensative the Black boy is to certain words it may have been hate induced by something. Being angry is not a good excuse to retaliate but would seem equal to retaliating with the power of the state because someone said something that angered you. If the idea it to create less racism if the offender was bullied and slapped around until he retaliated as he did he will have more hate for being arrested. It takes discussion and rational thinking to solve this. Beating him into submission will not work. Get the boys together and discuss what why and when. Make them talk about it.

  31. The N-word is like the F-word; you must be very selective in its’ use.

    You know what I f@cking mean?

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