Teenager Must Take Down COVID-19 Claims From Instagram

By Victor Westerkamp

The family of a Wisconsin teenager filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s department for threatening to arrest her if she would not take down her COVID-19 related Instagram posts.

Amyiah Cohoon, a 16-year-old student at Westfield Area High School in Westfield, Wisconsin, started to feel ill a few days after a school trip to Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida in early March.

Her symptoms—which were consistent with COVID-19 the disease that is caused by the CCP virus, also known as the novel coronavirus—turned so bad that she had to be taken to the hospital with severe respiratory problems.

Initially, she could not be tested due to the lack of proper testing tools. The medics, however, treated her as a COVID-19 patient and put her on oxygen. Later, on March 25, she tested negative for the CCP virus, but doctors considered it was due to the time window for positively testing for the virus had probably passed. Furthermore, they said, the tests are not 100 percent reliable.

Amyiah posted three times on Instagram about her condition, urging her classmates to stay inside and get tested if necessary; once to inform her classmates she was sick and going into self-quarantine, once from the hospital, saying she might have to stay in the emergency room, and once with a picture of herself wearing an oxygen mask.

However, the school district was not happy with Amyiah’s candid revelations on social media about her illness and sent a letter to all parents trying to soothe concerns about their children getting the virus too.

“Let me assure you there is NO truth to this,” the message by Westfield schools District Administrator Bob Meicher read, according to Reason.com. “This was a foolish means to get attention, and the source of the rumor has been addressed,” Weicher added.

To make matters worse, on March 17, Patrol Sergeant Cameron Klump from Marquette County Sheriff’s Department attended the Cohoon family home in Oxford, Wisconsin. He ordered on behalf of Sheriff Joseph Konrath that Amyiah take down the Instagram post immediately, or else he would “start taking people to jail,” for disorderly conduct.

Amyiah conceded, fearing that she or anyone in her family might end up being arrested. Still, later the family decided to consult the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty who filed a lawsuit [pdf] on Thursday on behalf of the family, contending the deputy’s behavior was an infringement on the first amendment, Amyiah’s freedom of speech.

The institute demanded a written, public apology and the guarantee that Amyiah would be unblemished and could repost her experiences with the illness on social media if she wanted to.

Sam Hall, an attorney for the sheriff, said the Amyiah “caused distress and panic” among other parents by claiming she had the coronavirus while having tested negative for the virus, The Sentinel reported.

Hall further contended, “This case is nothing more than a 2020 version of screaming fire in a crowded theater,”  referring to a historical example in which the First Amendment did not protect speech.