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Federal Court Rules Racist Messages are Not Protected Speech, High School Can Expel Student

    A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the expulsion of a California student who posted racist messages online.

    Cedric Epple, a former student at Albany High School, was expelled along with three other students who posted racist messages, including images of a slave being lynched and photo of a black classmate, with a caption saying Epple was “on the edge of bringing my rope to school on Monday.” The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the expulsion was justified, stating that the First Amendment does not protect expression that will disrupt classroom activities or target other students.

    “Just as a school cannot be forced to teach hate speech, neither should it be forced to entertain and tolerate within its walls hate speech promulgated by arrantly misguided students,” the court opinion stated. “When school authorities take action to root out the persistent echoes of racism that arise from time to time in American society, courts should not stop them, instead allowing racist comments to be rooted out and not deemed protected by the First Amendment. These principles apply with cogent force to hate speech that threatens to dehumanize ethnic or racial groups within our multiracial society.”

    Epple created the account in 2016, posting a photo of the school’s black basketball coach next to a black student player with nooses drawn on their necks and the caption, “twinning is winning,” the opinion stated. Another post on Epple’s account pictured a black student with the caption, “the gorilla image is nice today.”

    The school district expelled Epple when the account came to light, saying he had engaged in “bullying,” the opinion stated.

    Epple said the account was created “with the sole intention of entertaining [his] friends,” the opinion stated. Epple then admitted that the posts were “juvenile and offensive.”

    “The court’s decision today is a crystal clear affirmation that the school district and school leadership must continue to do all it can to keep all students from being bullied or harassed in any form,” Albany School district said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

    Epple’s attorney did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

    Post written by Reagan Reese. Republished with permission from DCNF. Images via Becker News.

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