First Amendment scholars question KU’s immediate discipline of cheerleaders connected to ‘Kkk go trump’ social media post
"Constitutional law experts say the University of Kansas may have acted too quickly in publicly disciplining four cheerleaders linked to a social media post that some people interpreted as racist.
'This is a classic example of ready, fire, aim — they punished these kids before they had any evidence,' said Mark Johnson, a partner at Dentons Kansas City, Mo., law firm and adjunct faculty member who teaches a first amendment class for the KU schools of law and journalism. 'Regardless of the results of the investigations, these kids have been convicted in the public already. I mean, it’s all over the country.'
Johnson said more investigation is needed to answer questions like whether the photo was taken and posted off-campus or on, under what circumstances, whether it’s been cropped, who actually put it on Snapchat with the text, and why.
'What we don’t know is what we don’t know,' Johnson said. 'I’m concerned about how KU Athletics approached this. They made the decision to suspend before they had nearly all of the facts.'
Johnson said there are both innocent and not-so-innocent possibilities. He said even racist speech is protected under the First Amendment, though hate speech may not be.
'The university’s rules rightfully prohibit speech that’s directed at individuals and has the imminent threat of inciting physical violence,' Johnson said. 'That’s sticking your nose in somebody’s face and using a racist term to them. This is not that ... If it was intended to be racist, I’m not even sure that it violates the university’s policy.'"