(CN) – The University of Kansas cannot expel a student for posting disparaging remarks about his ex-girlfriend on Twitter, a state appeals court ruled.
Navid Yeasin began dating a woman identified in court records as “W” in the fall of 2012 after they met in geology class. Their turbulent relationship lasted until May 2013.
In June 2013, Yeasin dropped W off at an appointment with her therapist. While she was inside the building, Yeasin looked at messages on W’s phone, according to the ruling.
When W came out, Yeasin angrily confronted her about messages she had sent to another man. He locked W in his car and drove around with her despite her pleas to be taken home.
“Not until you pay the consequences for what you’ve done and make sure you never do this again,” he said, according to court records.
Yeasin called W later that night and said he would make it so she “wouldn’t be welcome at any of the universities in Kansas,” the ruling states.
W called the police and Yeasin was charged with battery, criminal restraint and criminal deprivation of property.Yeasin entered a diversion program and was told to have no contact with W for one year.
She also complained to the University of Kentucky’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, which began an investigation. The same day an investigation was opened, Yeasin tweeted, “On the Brightside you won’t have mutated kids. #goodriddens,” court records show.
The IOA issued a no-contact order and informed Yeasin that he faced expulsion if he made any contact with W, including through electronic communication.
Later that evening, Yeasin reportedly tweeted, “Jesus Navid, how is it that you always end up dating the psycho bitches? #butreallyguys.” A day later, he tweeted, “Oh right, negative boob job. I remember her.”
The university warned Yeasin again after W complained about his Twitter activity. Hours later, he tweeted, “lol your so obsessed with me you gotta creep on me using your friends accounts #crazybitch,” according to the ruling.
IOA Executive Director Jane McQueeney met with Yeasin, who said “the Twitter thing was a lapse on my part,” court records say.
Nevertheless, the university expelled Yeasin and banned him from campus in November 2013, finding that he “created an imminent threat of danger to W on campus and unreasonably obstructed and interfered with her learning environment.”
Yeasin sued the university and a district court ruled that he must be readmitted to the school or have his tuition reimbursed because the confrontation in the car occurred off campus.
The university appealed, but the Kansas Court of Appeals agreed last week that Yeasin should not have been expelled.
“The student code did not give the university authority to act when the misconduct occurred somewhere other than its campus or at university sponsored or supervised events,” Judge Stephen Hill wrote for a three-judge panel.
The judge added there was no proof that Yeasin posted the tweets while he was on campus. For that reason, Hill said the appeals court did not need to decide whether the university had presented sufficient evidence to support the expulsion.
“Similarly, given our conclusion that the district court did not err in granting Yeasin’s petition, we need not address the other questions before us…[such as] whether Title IX permits the university to discipline student conduct occurring off campus and whether Yeasin’s tweets were protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the judge wrote.
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