The Arkansas State Supreme Court overturned a junior high school student’s conviction for making a derogatory comment toward her teacher, ruling that a state law prohibiting abuse or insults aimed at public school teachers is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment.
In its Feb. 22 decision, the court described the law as “overbroad,” stating that “the undefined terms ‘abuse’ and ‘insult’ could include protected speech.”
The law made it illegal for any person to abuse or insult a teacher while the teacher is performing school responsibilities. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and could be fined up to $1,500.
Stephany Yvonne Shoemaker was suspended from Oakdale Junior High School for three days in October 1999 for calling her science teacher a “bitch.” She was later charged with violating the teacher insult law and was convicted by a Benton County Circuit Court judge in April 2000. She appealed the conviction to the state supreme court.
According to James Luffman, the Shoemaker