Can I be suspended for a social media post?

Q: Can the principal of my school suspend me for a social media post on my private account during non-school hours? 

A: Probably not, but there is reason to be cautious about this type of behavior. There was a time when the line between on- and off-campus activities was clear. And generally so was the law. Back then, the authority of school officials typically ended with the school bell when students physically left school grounds. But times have changed and the lines are fuzzier.

A social media post sent from one’s bedroom at midnight has no real, physical boundary and some courts have allowed school officials, particularly in cases where the speech is particularly offensive or harmful, to punish students for their off-campus speech where it has a direct, serious and foreseeable negative impact on those in school.

In those cases, the defense that “I wrote this under my covers” didn’t fly. That said, there continues to be an ongoing, important debate about how the exact lines should be drawn and who should enforce them.

Every week, Student Press Law Center attorneys answer a frequently asked question about student media law in “Ask SPLC.”

See previous Ask SPLC questions

Have a question you’d like answered? Tell us in the form below. (Not all questions will be chosen for Ask SPLC.)

If you need immediate help, contact our Legal Hotline.