Student web publishers tracked at Georgia high school using subpoena

Two Georgia high school students faced a school disciplinary hearing thismonth after local police subpoenaed Internet and phone companies to track themdown for sexually explicit information they posted about fellow classmatesonline.
North Oconee High School officials and the Oconee Countysheriff’s office had been working to identify the students since earlySeptember, when the comments were first posted anonymously on the Web using a privately-owned computer off school grounds.

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SPLCView: Though it’s hard to defend the offensive messages these studentsposted on their MySpace pages, this case does raise some troubling issues aboutthe reach of school officials in punishing students for their off-campus speechand, specifically, the propriety of using the subpoena powers of law enforcementofficials to track them down. Certainly, if law enforcement officials believedthe students had broken the law, few would object to their launching a fullcriminal investigation. Additionally, if the students’ classmates felt they wereunlawfully harmed by the posts, they also had the right to seek redress bypursuing the student posters directly. Neither of those justifications forissuing a subpoena, however, seemed to be in play here. Instead, schoolofficials — whose authority over students once they leave campus islimited — had law enforcement officials use their subpoena powers in a waythat could dangerously expand the reach of school officials into the privatelives of students.