Court to Sheriff: Sending officer to tell teen to remove Instagram posts clearly rights violation

Wisconsin is apparently America’s Karen.

Wisconsin public schools referred students to police twice as often as schools nationwide in 2017-18 – nine students were referred to police per 1,000 students enrolled compared to the national rate of 4.5, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of US Department of Education data. find.

Bring cops into schools and schools start to think that every disciplinary problem is a criminal problem. Far too many police services loaning officers to schools agree. Things may have gotten better over the past couple of years, but this is the latest data from Wisconsin public schools and it’s a pretty grim picture of school administrators abdicating their responsibilities and allowing law enforcement to take over. relay.

Last year, a Wisconsin student sued the local sheriff and one of his officers for turning her Instagram post into a criminal case. Student Amyiah Cohoon had returned from a spring break trip with her school group and was admitted to a hospital with COVID-like symptoms. Her Instagram photos of her in the hospital were accompanied by statements that she had the coronavirus and wouldn’t be back to school anytime soon.

It turned out that Cohoon did not have COVID. School administrators decided that Cohoon was trying to cause panic by falsely claiming that she had. They sent a statement essentially calling Cohoon a liar. Then they sent the local sheriff’s department after her. This is from his trial:

During the evening of March 27, Defendant Patrol Sgt Cameron Klump of the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office came to the Cohoons’ home. Amyiah opened the door and Sergeant Klump said he needed to speak with his father.

After Mr Cohoon came out, Sergeant Klump explained that the school’s “principal” complained to defendant Sheriff Joseph Konrath about one of Amyiah’s Instagram posts. Sergeant Klump showed Mr. Cohoon a screenshot from Amyiah’s third Instagram post. A faithful and accurate copy of the cropped screenshot that Sergeant Klump showed to Mr. Cohoon is attached hereto as Exhibit 5.

Sergeant Klump said he received direct orders from Sheriff Konrath to demand that Amyiah remove this post and, if she does not, cite Amyiah and / or her parents for disorderly conduct and “begin to take people to jail “.

Faced with a possible arrest of her parents, the student deleted her publications. Then she filed a complaint. And the court has now told Sheriff Joseph Konrath what he probably already knows: Threatening her (and her parents) with arrest for Instagram posts was a blatant violation of her First Amendment rights. (h / t Gabriel Malor)

The opening of the judgment [PDF] makes it clear where this is heading:

The SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 have had a huge impact on American society. But, as this case makes clear, that impact has its limits and, more specifically, does not extend to waiving First Amendment protections.

And the sheriff was limited to explaining why it was not a violation of rights, rather than quibbling over conflicting representations of the incident that form the basis of this lawsuit. There is no argument to be had here because everything was filmed.

The parties agree that the facts are not in dispute. Indeed, the entirety of Sergeant Klump’s meeting with Amyiah and her parents is captured in a dashcam video. This video, along with other recorded evidence, establishes that the defendants violated Amyiah’s free speech rights by demanding that she remove her social media posts or be the subject of a criminal citation or arrest.

Continuing in the spirit of things that cannot be questioned, the court asserts that there is not even the slightest shade of gray in this series of events. It was absolutely a violation of rights.

Even though they are short and often grammatically slanderous, social media posts do not fall outside the scope of the First Amendment. On the contrary, they are exactly what the First Amendment seeks to protect.

The best defense offered by the Sheriff was an inadvertent punchline – one that demonstrates that the person raising the argument does not understand either the First Amendment or the Precedent which they incorrectly cite.

But the defendants disagree. In their opinion, Amyiah lost her constitutional protection when she published an article that raised concern in the community and led to an influx of phone calls to the Westfield School District and the Marquette County Health Department. According to Sheriff Konrath, it was like “a cry of fire in a crowded movie theater”. Even setting aside the fact that the popular cinema analogy actually referred to “falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing panic ”, Schenck c. United States, 249 US 47, 52 (1919) (emphasis added), the defendants’ argument still fails.

While the government has an interest in protecting the public and avoiding potential panics, its interests do not automatically override the rights guaranteed to citizens. The balancing test doesn’t even need to be deployed here because the government’s actions were clearly wrong.

Labeling censorship as good for society doesn’t make it legal. If that were the case, almost all of the censorship would escape First Amendment scrutiny. […] Amyiah’s position is not covered by any of the categorical First Amendment exceptions, so this Court will not balance the social utility of her reduction against its government-assigned value.

The correct answer in situations like these is more speech. It is certainly not about sending officers to a teenager’s house to threaten arrest.

The government here had every opportunity to counter Amyiah’s speech, but instead chose to engage in the reprehensible practice of censorship.

All the arguments raised by the government are immediately dismissed. False all the way down.

The Marquette County Sheriff had no more ability to silence Amyiah’s messages than he would to silence the many talking heads of cable news, who regularly take one-sided positions on the issues of the day, deliberately ignoring any troublesome facts that might disturb their preference. stories. Indeed, even though Amyiah’s postings were false, no court has ever suggested that non-commercial false speech be exempt from First Amendment scrutiny.

In addition, the request was accompanied by threats to Cohoon and his parents. Although she was not present during the entire conversation, she correctly deduced the intention of the visit. She deleted the messages while the deputy was still talking to her father and then deleted another message about her hospital stay, fearing that officers would return if it was not deleted. And yet the sheriff claimed it was all voluntary because no officer ever ordered him to cut the posts. False, oh still very false, said the court:

The defendants ask the court to group the efforts of Sergeant Klump in the basket of “attempts to convince”. Amyiah agreed to delete her Instagram post before learning of Sergeant Klump’s threats. How then, ask the defendants, can she claim coercion? This argument ignores the inherently frightening and coercive nature of a uniformed police officer showing up to a teenage girl’s home and demanding that she stop talking otherwise protected.

Sgt.Klump’s dash cam footage shows that it was not his persuasive rhetoric that led Amyiah to remove her social media post, but rather her request made under the auspices of the Sheriff’s Department: “[W]We need to have it removed. It was coercion, regardless of the metric. The state can’t send a law enforcement officer to a teenage girl’s home to ask her to remove an Instagram post that government officials disagree with, then pretend those officials weren’t indulging in than to the Socratic method.D. It is possible that a Westfield administrator or an employee of the Marquette County Health Department engaged in a mutually respectful discussion with Amyiah to try to convince her to voluntarily retract, but this is not the method that ‘they chose. Instead, they chose to rely on the coercive power of the sheriff’s department, and any attempt to obscure that fact by making Sergeant Klump a serious public relations expert must fail.

Imagine your tax dollars being spent paying the government and its lawyers to argue this against your own interests. It is money burnt by people who are too obtuse and myopic to notice that they have set something on fire. Every defensive effort in this costume is a last-ditch effort.

Here is the court dismantling the defense that the sheriff’s office genuinely believed a law was broken, thereby excusing any subsequent rights violations.

The defendants’ probable cause argument significantly underestimates the probable cause analysis of the disorderly conduct. If accepted, the defendants’ position would largely void the First Amendment’s protection for free speech, allowing police officers a free hand to falsely arrest anyone engaging in protected speech as long as the the offending officer could report a possible disturbance or perceived anxiety among those who opposed the speech. As a result, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that this speech “falls under First Amendment protection.” . . cannot be punished as disorderly conduct. In re Douglas D., 2001 WI 47, ¶47, 243 Wis. 2d 204, 239-40, 626 NW2d 725, 743. The defendants offer no answer to this precedent, which removes any basis for probable cause.

The government loses. It was a loss his representatives – both from the school and the sheriff’s office – should have seen coming. None of this was to happen. But no one with the power had the self-awareness of being the adult in the room or the overall awareness that sending law enforcement with requests to remove social media posts was exactly the kind. something the First Amendment was set up against to guard against.

Court to Sheriff: Sending officer to tell teen to remove Instagram posts clearly rights violation

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