Aaron Wisniewski (plaintiff) was an eighth-grade student at Weedsport Middle School. Wisniewski used an image that was a drawing of a pistol shooting a bullet at a person’s head as his icon on AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). The image also had the words “Kill Mr. VanderMolen” under the drawing. Wisniewski used this image for approximately three weeks and sent instant messages (IMs) to 15 different people during that time. The IMs were sent from Wisniewski’s home. Some of Wisniewski’s IMs went to classmates at Weedsport Middle School. The image was reported to Mr. VanderMolen, who forwarded it to the school administration. Wisniewski was suspended for five days, pending a superintendent’s hearing. The local police interviewed Wisniewski and concluded that the image was intended as a joke. Wisniewski was then suspended for one semester following the superintendent’s hearing, because the image disrupted the educational environment. The Board of Education of the Weedsport Central School District (the board) (defendant) upheld the suspension. Wisniewski sued the board and the superintendent, alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The district court dismissed the claims. Wisniewski appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.