Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Federal Appeals Court Backs LIMITS on Speech in Schools

Earlier this month a New York Federal Appeals Court ruled that a high school had a right to punish a student for criticizing the school administration in an online blog.

Avery Doninger, 18 (pictured with her mother, Lauren) called school administrators “douche bags” in an April 2007 blog entry and was subsequently stripped of her position as class secretary at Lewis S. Mills HS in Burlington, Conn.

The Second Court of Appeals ruled that even speech off school grounds could lead to disruption in the hallways and therefore can be prohibited.

The ruling said in part, “Vulgar or offensive speech – speech that an adult making a political point might have a Constitutional right to employ – may legitimately give rise to disciplinary action by a school.”

Certainly schools have been judged to have fewer Constitutional protections, for instance school lockers can be searched for contraband by law enforcement, with merely school approval, not a warrant, but this speech restriction outside of school, a criticism of the administration and NOT speech that would seem to “lead to disruptions ion the hallways,” seems thin, at the very least.


Rachel said...

The sad part is this happens regardless of which political side the govt is on. No one can peg this as conservative or liberal

On the good side - everyone in said school system will start saying "douchebag", especially to the appeals court :)

JMK said...

You're absolutely right about that Rachel.

I HOPE this won't hold up to a SC appeal.

Criticizing a school administration is not "threatening," "slanderous," or even "reckless" speech, so I don't see the harm.

School administrations ARE NOT and should NOT seek to become beyond criticism.

While I SUPPORT a lower parameter on privacy rights (a school administrator being able to allow police to search lockers) and stiffer penalties for kids who threaten others and teachers in online rantings....I DON'T see where criticism (even nasty criticism) of a school's administration would lead to "violence in the hallways," UNLESS the school's charging that the faculty themselves might not be able to restrain THEMselves.

It doesn't seem to be a well thought-out decision.

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