Collins v. Putt, No. 19-1169 (2d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit against his instructor at Charter Oak State College, alleging that the instructor violated his First Amendment rights by removing an online blog post that he made in response to a class assignment. Plaintiff also alleged that the instructor and others violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment in connection with disciplining him for the blog post.
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the suit under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court held that the district court did not err by analyzing plaintiff's First Amendment claim under the Hazelwood standard because plaintiff's speech bears the hallmark of school sponsorship. The court also held that, under the Hazelwood standard, the district court did not err in determining that the instructor's deletion of plaintiff's post was reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns. Furthermore, plaintiff failed plausibly to allege that the instructor's actions constituted viewpoint discrimination. Rather, the instructor's deletion of plaintiff's post reflected a content-based restriction that the Supreme Court has instructed the court to tolerate in the school setting. In this context of an online message board for completing course assignments, the court concluded that plaintiff was not subjected to viewpoint discrimination when his post criticizing rather than performing the assignment was deleted. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment due process claim and held that plaintiff was afforded a full opportunity to be heard and received sufficient process, and any discernible substantive due process claim fails alongside his more particularized First Amendment censorship claim.