As you know, I normally represent injured people but I wanted to share these two First Amendment cases with you.
J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District was a United States Court of Appeals case – – that is one step below the United States Supreme Court – – about a student who created a MySpace.com internet profile from her home computer that featured her principal. Although the profile did not state his name, it included the principal’s photograph pulled from the school website and included statements suggesting that the principal was a sexual pervert and pedophile. The school suspended the student and she sued claiming the school violated her First Amendment free speech rights by punishing her. The Court held that because school officials could reasonably have forecast a substantial disruption or material interference within the school as a result of this profile, the school did not violate the student’s First Amendment free speech rights when it disciplined her.
The same Court reached the opposite conclusion in Layshock v. Hermitage School District, a case involving a student creating a MySpace profile about his school principal which contained quite offensive material. However, the school district could not establish any connection between the student’s speech and a substantial disruption of the school environment. The Court thought it would be establishing a dangerous precedent if it allowed school authorities to reach into a student’s home and control the student’s actions there to the same extent that they can be controlled when the student participates in school activities. Since the school could not show that the profile would likely create a distraction or a substantial disruption of the school environment, the student could not be punished, his actions were protected by the free speech rights of the First Amendment.
I clearly remember when speaking out of turn resulted in getting whacked on the knuckles with a clicker. I do not know what happened to all of those clickers – – are they recyclable? – – but they are no longer around and the preferred punishment seems to be school suspensions. I am not sure it would be wise to return to the age of the clicker but I must say that I cannot recall a single Appeals Court case discussing the clicker. Times have changed. School is out for the summer, enjoy it, September is coming.
John A. Orlando, Esquire can be reached in his office at 115 Fayette Street, by phone at (610) 897-2576 or by email at email@example.com. Please visit our website at www.thepanjinjurylawyers.com.