In Some Cases, Students' Speech Rights Disappear in Cyberspace

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 24, 2010 | Go to article overview

In Some Cases, Students' Speech Rights Disappear in Cyberspace


Byline: Casey Curlin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Before the rise of social-networking sites, students shared gripes about their teachers in the cafeteria or during gym class. But when Pembroke Pines, Fla., high school junior Katherine Evans took her complaints about her Advanced Placement English teacher to the Internet in 2007, her grumbling landed her in court.

On an issue that has divided the nation's legal system, a U.S. District Court in Florida ruled earlier this month that the student's Ms. Sarah Phelps is the worst teacher I've ever met! Facebook group falls under the wide umbrella of protected speech, and Miss Evans could go forward with a lawsuit challenging her suspension and removal from AP classes as a result of the incident.

It was the opinion of a student about a teacher, that was published off-campus, did not cause any disruption on-campus, and was not lewd, vulgar, threatening or advocating illegal or dangerous behavior, Florida Magistrate Barry Garber wrote.

Coarse language and bad manners are nothing new on Facebook and other social-networking sites, but courts and state legislatures are divided over how to curb personal attacks and cyberbullying while respecting students' First Amendment rights to free speech.

Just weeks before the Florida decision, two courts in Pennsylvania took opposite stances on whether school officials could legitimately rein in offensive online postings by students.

It all depends on the circumstances of the case, said Mark Smith, director of Internet law services at the business and legal information company Pike and Fischer, noting that courts have focused on whether the student postings constitute a substantial disruption of normal school functions.

But Jonathan Zimmerman, a history instructor at New York University, warned his fellow liberals not to be so quick to oppose the school administration's effort to control their charges' Internet musings.

If we really care about protecting free speech, we need to teach our kids some basic principles of civility. And sometimes that means we have to restrict their speech, even on the Web, he wrote in a recent opinion piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Miss Evans, now a student at the University of Florida, created the Facebook site and encouraged fellow students to share their feelings of hatred for the instructor.

Although the site was online for only a few days, Miss Evans was later suspended and removed from her AP courses. The school cited the reason for disciplinary action as disruptive behavior and bullying/cyberbullying harassment.

The issue has not reached the Supreme Court, and the lower courts are struggling to update a landmark 1969 Supreme Court case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, to the complexities of the information age. In that 7-2 decision, the high court ruled that three Iowa high school students should not have been suspended for wearing black armbands at school to protest the Vietnam War.

It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate, Justice Abe Fortas wrote for the majority.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

In Some Cases, Students' Speech Rights Disappear in Cyberspace
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.