School reverses course after controversial cyberbullying suspension

Posted at 5:52 PM, Jul 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-20 17:52:15-04

Nick Lutz wasn't sold on the four-page apology letter his ex-girlfriend left on his windshield. 

So the University of Central Florida student pulled out a red pen and started marking it up, correcting grammar mistakes and underlying blanket statements that he felt didn't have supporting details. Overall, he gave her a D-. "Revision for half credit will be accepted," he added.

He snapped photos of the letter, tweeting them out in February in a viral post that has gotten over 121,000 retweets. That tweet, his university ruled five months after it was posted, was grounds for suspension. But, after an appeal from Lutz, the school has since reversed its decision and dismissed the case entirely.

The university declined to comment, saying in a statement that it could not discuss student conduct cases when the student involved does not waive Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act rights.

It "really blew my mind that it got this far"

Lutz's ex, who hasn't been identified or spoken publicly about the incident, was still in high school and wasn't attending UCF when he posted the snarky tweet. But that didn't keep the girl's mother from complaining to Lutz's school that he was cyberbullying her daughter. 

Lutz, now a rising senior studying marketing, said he was called in for a hearing in March for "breaking the code of conduct." He thought that, at worst, he might be put on probation.

"The fact that it was at this point really blew my mind that it got this far," Lutz said. "I was told before that probation was the most likely outcome. To hear suspension attached to my name made me outraged."

The suspension and other sanctions were delivered on July 6, according to the formal appeal from Lutz's lawyer and family friend Jacob Stuart. In addition to being suspended for the summer and fall semesters, Lutz was also put on disciplinary probation through the rest of his time at UCF. He was told to create a presentation on how his actions impacted others and write a five-page paper on "the impact of this type of behavior in the future." 

Despite the punishment brought against him, Lutz said he didn't regret his post. 

"I still stand by what I did and probably will for as long as I live," Lutz said. "I know in my heart what my intentions were ... My intent from the beginning was never to expose her."

Stuart said the university's sanctions based on a student's social media posts start a "slippery slope."

"It sets a very dangerous precedent for a student to have a university troll his or her media posts," he told CNN.

That precedent, Stuart said, prompted them to file a formal appeal on Monday with the conduct office, which Lutz posted in full on his Facebook page.

Stuart said they were told that it could take weeks or months before they heard the results of the appeal. Instead, the university told them that the sanctions were dropped just two days later.

Stuart said he believes the viral nature of the case accelerated the university's decisions. 

"I think this garnered so much attention so quickly that it put the university in a difficult position," Stuart said. "It really forced their hand."