Update: Citing First Amendment, SHSU Won’t Punish Student for Tweet

September 8, 2015

Sam Houston State University says it will not take action against a student whose controversial tweet stirred internet outrage, including calls for the school to punish her, because the tweet is protected by the First Amendment.

SHSU President Dana Hoyt said student Monica Foy’s now-deleted tweet questioning what slain Texas deputy Darren Goforth did to deserve his death was “insensitive and inflammatory”—and also not a crime.

“A personal comment made on a private social media account, as offensive as it was,” Hoyt wrote Friday in a second statement on the case, “remains protected by the First Amendment.”

In an earlier statement posted to SHSU’s Facebook page late Wednesday afternoon, Hoyt was vague about freedom of speech, saying simply that SHSU was “neither accountable nor responsible for the personal actions of this individual.” Hoyt recognized that Foy had the right to her opinions while nonetheless condemning the tweet as “absolutely unacceptable behavior.”

“Ms. Foy’s comments were reckless, but we cannot respond in kind,” Hoyt wrote.

Earlier Wednesday, FIRE’s Peter Bonilla wrote here on The Torch that SHSU had no legal grounds to punish Foy.

In SHSU’s second statement, posted Saturday, Hoyt referenced the First Amendment protections afforded to SHSU students more in depth, noting that “offensive speech is still protected speech.”

Ms. Foy has issued an apology and will have to live with the consequences of her actions. Our response maintains both our academic integrity and upholds the Constitution of the United States of America. Sometimes the right choice is not always the most popular decision.

FIRE is pleased that SHSU has made the right choice.

Schools:  Sam Houston State University