School districts — and the courts — are trying to gauge how far administrators' reach goes when monitoring students' speech.
The Court ruled in favor of Anthony Elonis, a Pennsylvania man who was convicted in 2010 under a federal threat-speech statute for violent language he used on Facebook to describe his wife, local elementary schools and an FBI agent.
About two dozen students at a suburban Pittsburgh high school staged a protest Monday after school and police officials told students they could face criminal charges if they spoke about teachers’ pending sexual assault and victim intimidation investigations.
When George “Trey” Barnett was suspended from the University of Tulsa without a disciplinary hearing for violating the institution’s harassment policy and for sharing information about his pending disciplinary case, he asked the student newspaper to investigate.
While school officials often say such searches are necessary to combat cyberbullying and other illegal activity, several lawmakers and free speech advocates argue efforts to regulate off-campus speech are an invasion of students’ privacy.
A Tennessee school district’s technology and internet policy, which allows school administrators to examine electronic devices students bring from home and monitor communications or data transmitted on the district’s network, violates students’ rights to free speech and protection against “suspicionless searches,” The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in a letter to the district Monday.
A federal court has dismissed a suit from a former student at Central Lakes College, who sued college administrators for expelling him from a nursing program over remarks on his personal Facebook page.
Can derogatory remarks about a teacher be both constitutionally protected speech and also punishable as harassment?A Wisconsin appeals court appears to believe so.The Wisconsin Supreme Court is being asked to take up the case of "Kaleb K.," a 15-year-old student from Stevens Point, Wisc., who was arrested after posting a homemade rap on YouTube filled with profane, degrading language about his Spanish teacher.In September 2012, a juvenile-court judge declared Kaleb delinquent on the grounds of violating state criminal statutes against disorderly conduct and unlawful use of a computer communications system.In a ruling last November, the state Court of Appeals threw out the disorderly conduct charge, finding that Kaleb's lyrics, though distasteful, were not threatening, obscene or otherwise outside the boundaries of the First Amendment.But the court then went on to uphold the conviction under the state's computer-harassment law, which makes it a misdemeanor if a speaker "sends a message to [a] person on an electronic mail or other computerized communication system" that contains lewd or profane language "with the intent to harass, annoy, or offend."It's possible to harass someone even with a constitutionally protected message if the speech is delivered in an especially harassing manner.
If members of the Kansas Board of Regents have a low tolerance for unkind online speech, they'd best keep their browsers closed.
Whether public schools can regulate students' off-campus speech just as if the speech occurred on campus is a recurring legal issue that will arise with increasing frequency now that state legislatures are putting schools into the business of policing online bullying.The Ninth Circuit U.S.