Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Student sues to slam teacher on Facebook

High school is a strange time of life. You're old enough to recognize the limitations authorities place upon you, but not old enough to challenge them in the legal arena. For example, the courts have ruled that student's lockers can be searched without student consent or a warrant. But what about comments made off school grounds, on Facebook? Do teens have a right to privacy and to free speech? Or can they be punished for inappropriate comments online? The courts are about to rule, thanks to a lawsuit brought by one high school honor's student.

A South Florida teenager who sued her former principal after she was suspended for creating a Facebook page criticizing a teacher can proceed with her lawsuit, a federal judge has ruled.

The student, Katherine Evans, is seeking to have her suspension expunged from her disciplinary record. School officials suspended her for three days, saying she had been “cyberbullying” the teacher, Sarah Phelps. Ms. Evans is also seeking a “nominal fee” for what she argues was a violation of her First Amendment rights, her lawyers said, and payment of her legal fees.
What do Mod-Bloggers think? Where does the line belong in this instance?


Anonymous said...

I don't know what to think about this, only that I believe strongly in First Amendment rights. However, the Free Speech clause does not protect defamation and hate speech. So I suppose it is up to the courts to decide whether what was written amounts to hate speech.
Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers may be prosecuted for tolerating hate speech by their employees that result in a "hostile or offensive working environment" for other employees. So--again depending on the speech--the school is not out of line to suspend the student.
Furthermore, the teenager is not an emancipated adult, and cannot just do anything she wants without regard to the reputation and policies of her school. For example, if she ran around naked all the time, the school might want to suspend her too.

quizwedge said...

Not sure about the legal side, but I think that the school was in the wrong to suspend the student and that the Facebook page was within her first amendment rights.

shadowmom1 said...

It depends on what was said on the page. If there is slander or libel or threats, then action could be taken. If it was just "I hate Ms.X", or "Ms. X is a lusy teacher", then no action should be taken.