Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Student free speech to Supreme Court soon?
It was a big day for student free speech last Thursday, a day that ended with mixed results. One three-judge panel of the Third US Circuit Court decided for a student, and another panel from the same circuit decided against a student, Wired reports. Wired adds that the Supreme Court "has never squarely addressed the parameters of off-campus, online student speech, but might soon. So far, lower courts appear to be guided by a 1969 high court ruling saying student expression may not be suppressed unless school officials reasonably conclude that it will “materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.” In one case the judges said that "school officials in Mercer County [Penn.] cannot reach into a family's home and police the Internet. That case also involves a MySpace parody of a principal created by a student at home," the Washington Post reported. In the other case, the judges "upheld the suspension of a Schuylkill County eighth-grader who posted sexually explicit material along with her principal's photograph on a fake MySpace page" – though the dissenting judge "said his colleagues were broadening the school's authority and improperly censoring students." The Post added that "school boards, free-speech advocates and others had been awaiting the rulings for clarity on how far schools can go to control both online speech and offsite behavior," and what they got was the opposite. [See also "Student free speech decision" and my original post on the Avery Doninger case, "Teen name-calling: Federal case" and the ensuing lower-court decision.]