1st Amendment Rights vs. employment and school

Published: Aug. 14, 2017 at 6:39 PM PDT
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If you attend an incendiary rally like the one in Charlottesville, Virginia this last weekend, in these times of social media, you would be a bit naive to believe your picture won't end up somewhere for all to see.

Or so says Gi Woong Yun, director of the Center for Advanced Media Studies at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

“Probably within 3 seconds you are already famous. And when you are famous like that fast, there are always consequences. Maybe possibly make a lot of money from the positive perspective, but also you can get a death threat,” says Professor Yun.

And it didn't take long for someone to set up a Twitter account titled "Yes, You're a Racist," identifying UNR student Peter Cvjetanovic as a rally attendee, along with Cole White. According to the site, White was fired from his restaurant job as a result of his participation in the rally.

Approximately four other people are identified on the site, and "Yes, You're a Racist" is asking for more pictures and names.

Could someone lose a job or place in school for exercising the right to free speech? One attorney we talked to says in Nevada and California, employees are at will.

“If an employer has a problem with hate speech or white supremacy rallies that the employee attended, then they can certainly fire them, and they don't have to say why,” says Ken McKenna, a Reno attorney.

As far as a public school student?

“The student code of conduct… a university could determine a student attending a white supremacist rally is hate conduct and could be expelled for that,” says McKenna.

What action can the person take who is the subject of a twitter site like "Yes you're a Racist"? Professor Yun says if you can't afford a company to help settle the waters...

“One of the best ways to approach is be honest,” says Prof. Yun.

By all accounts Peter Cvjetanovic has been honest. In a recent interview with KOLO he said he “wants to honor white culture in all its goods and bads, and I thought Robert Lee was a great example.”