Federal Courts: Schools Can Punish Students For Off-Campus, Online Speech

In a pair of rulings by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this week, judges sided with students who contended in separate cases that they were unfairly punished for publishing fake MySpace profiles of their principals. But the victories may be construed as defeats for student free speech, because judges’ opinions held that students can be punished for speech made off-campus and online if it is deemed to “materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.” Neither of the cases ruled on earlier this week met that standard.

Wired reports the cases, both of which were filed in Pennsylvania, could give the U.S. Supreme Court fodder to take a stand on students’ rights to free speech online.

In one of the cases, a fake MySpace profile mockingly accused a principal of taking drugs and keeping booze at his desk, while the other posed a principal as a sex addict and pedophile.

What powers do you think schools should have to discipline students for online writing posted at home?

Schools May Punish Students for Off-Campus, Online Speech [Wired]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.