Student was dismissed from a state college nursing program based on the content of his personal Facebook page

Case Background

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a brief in support of a nursing student's Free Speech rights. The student was dismissed from a state college nursing program based on the content of his personal Facebook page. The dismissal was upheld by the Federal District Court in Minnesota. The case is currently before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

The ACLU-MN argues the state disciplined the student nurse in violation of his Free Speech rights. College student speech is entitled to the full protections of the First Amendment, particularly off-campus speech. However, the state disciplined the student nurse because his Facebook posts were deemed offensive and unprofessional under the nursing program's rules of conduct and ethics. The ACLU-MN also argues that a nursing student's speech should not be entitled to less protection than a high school student or a typical college student's speech, just because the nursing student is pursuing a professional degree. While states are entitled to regulate the speech of licensed professionals in the confines of their professional duties, the U.S. Supreme Court has always protected professional's First Amendment rights when the speech does not pertain to their professional duties.

2017 Update

After losing at the Court of Appeals, the plantiffs submitted a petition to send to the Supreme Court.  We are waiting to hear an update.

2014 Update

In August 2014, the ACLU-MN lost the case when the U.S. District Court of Minnesota dismissed Keefe’s case, ruling that the college was entitled to discipline Keefe for the Facebook posts because they were enforcing academic standards of professionalism. Keefe is appealing the decision.


Timothy Griffin, Barry Landy and Katherine Devlaminck all of Stinson Leonard Street, LLP and Teresa Nelson of the ACLU-MN

Date filed

December 8, 2014


U.S Court of Appeals- 8th Circuit