After Suspension for Facebook Postings, Former Public High School Student Wins Settlement

By January 21, 2011

In a decision that is likely to have ramifications for college students, a former Florida public high school student has agreed to settle the First Amendment lawsuit she filed against her principal after she was suspended for Facebook postings in which she was critical of one of her teachers. The former student, Katherine Evans, argued in her complaint that the suspension violated her First Amendment rights, and the district court agreed in a February 2010 order denying the principal’s motion to dismiss the suit. Notably, the court’s order denied the principal the defense of qualified immunity, finding that a reasonable official in his position would have recognized a violation of clearly established First Amendment rights. As part of the settlement with Evans, now a student at the University of Florida, the school has agreed to pay $15,000 in attorneys’ fees plus $1 in nominal damages and to remove any record of Evans’ suspension.