Public School Coach Forgot How The First Amendment Works. 6th Circuit Is Happy To Remind Him

Gun Rights

Aren’t you glad it applies to public schools too?

Does the 1st Amendment protect a parent from retaliation after criticizing his daughter’s coach for not putting her in games for long enough? Yes. Next question.

Oh, you’re still here? Considering  ex-presidents taking Batman villain headshots are gracing headlines, now might actually be the moment to be wowed by the mundanity of a functioning constitution. Who knows? Maybe it will help some struggling 1L out there that’s not allowed to use AI on their Con Law final.

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You see, the Founding Fathers — not the personal right to gun ownership ones the NRA made up — got together in Philly and thew together a document that was intended to curb tyranny. Big tyrannies like a former president that flamed the fans of insurrection from re-running for president, down to the little abuses of power like a coach at a public school preventing a parent from seeing their kid play after some unwanted feedback. From

After a father sent angry text messages to his high school daughter’s softball coach, and was banned from the games because of the messages, he filed suit claiming the First Amendment protected his speech.

In the Aug. 25 opinion by Judge Chad A. Readler, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed, reversing the summary judgment dismissal of the father’s complaint.

The court determined that, because the father, Randall McElhaney, had satisfied the clearly established prong of the qualified immunity inquiry and the threshold question of whether a constitutional violation in fact occurred, summary judgment was inappropriate.

This is a small First Amendment violation compared to cops harassing protestors or whatever our Supreme Court is doing with its establishment clause jurisprudence, but it still counts! Especially in situations where the stakes are small potatoes, it’s important to get at the root of the issue. And when it comes to the free speech, its generally frowned upon for government officials and employees to retaliate against you because you said something they didn’t like:

According to the court, “‘[T]he bedrock principle underlying,’ the Amendment’s free speech guarantee ‘is that states cannot prohibit speech merely because it offends the sensibilities of others,’ especially when the government censorship is based on the views expressed within the speech.”

The court further noted that the right to criticize public officials is safely within the protected speech zone, noting that it held in its 2008 decision in Jenkins v. Rock Hill Loc. Sch. Dist. that a parent’s complaints to a school administrator and a later letter to a newspaper were protected speech.

“Unless the nature of their speech falls within one of those “historic and traditional” categories, schools cannot regulate the content of parents’ speech about their child to a school employee who interacts with the child,” said the court.

Dems the rules! At least until the Supreme Court decides to like, uproot a hundred year’s worth of well established law on a whim on their own accord which just happens to be in the interests of the billionaires funding their fishing trips and paying for their mom’s housing.

6th Circuit Weighs Whether Father’s Texts Criticizing Daughter’s Softball Coach Were Protected Speech []

Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s.  He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at and by tweet at @WritesForRent.

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