Student Free Speech Rights
ACLU-MN volunteer attorney, Jordan Kushner, filed a free speech brief in an appeal on behalf of a seventh-grader who was adjudicated a petty offender for drawing a cartoon with violent themes. The brief argues that our client should not have been found to have violated the state’s disorderly conduct law because there was insufficient evidence to suggest that the pure speech of the cartoon constituted conduct prohibited by law. The brief also argues that the cartoon constituted protected speech for which he cannot be punished.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has held that, as applied to pure speech, Minnesota’s disorderly conduct law may only be applied to unprotected speech such as fighting words. Our client’s cartoon was created as a therapeutic response to bullying that he had experienced at school. It did not fit the definition of fighting words, and the Court did not determine that it fell into any other category of unprotected speech such as a “true threat.”