Right to criticize school online, Hargrave Military Academy v. Guyles
When Stewart Guyles was expelled from Hargrave Military Academy, a private prep school, his parents, outraged by what they perceived as unduly harsh discipline and the administration’s unwillingness to discuss the situation with them, sent a letter to other Hargrave parents. The bulk of the five page letter described the expulsion of their son and their dealings with the administration, and indicates that they view the director of the school to be bungling and lacking in leadership. Later, they set up a website called HargraveHasProblems.com, on which they posted a copy of the letter as well as stories from other parents. Within days of the posting of the website, Hargrave sued the Guyles for tortuous interference, business conspiracy, and libel based on the website and the letter. Without notice or hearing, Hargrave immediately obtained an exceedingly broad temporary restraining order (TRO) that, among other things, enjoined the Guyles from continuing to operate their website or contacting other Hargrave parents. On May 15, 2006, we filed an amicus brief along with the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. In the brief, we argued that the TRO constituted an unconstitutional prior restraint on the Guyles' freedom of expression and urged that the order be rescinded. The case was later settled without a ruling on the First Amendment issue.