The article examines the free speech of public students with regard to social media platforms. Currently, there are conflicting lower court rulings on whether public schools have the right to punish students for their speech on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace etc.) off school grounds. There are several petitions urging the Supreme Court to intervene and make a ruling.
The National School Board Association’s stance is “The ubiquitous use of social networking and other forms of online communication has resulted in a stunning increase in harmful student expression that school administrators are forced to address with no clear guiding jurisprudence”.
As the law stands now, a public school may not suppress a students speech unless it “materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school”, which was established by the Supreme Court in 1969. The Supreme Court ruling was in response to students adorning black armbands, in protest of the Vietnam War. Ultimately, the court determined that the students right to expression were covered under the 1st amendment.
A main concern of the lower courts is that the 1969 opinion is out of date, and should not apply in the modern age of social media. Currently the lower courts are rendering judgments that both uphold student’s rights in one case and penalize them for their speech in another case. In both circumstances they are sighting the 1969 Supreme Court decision. Currently, the Supreme Court has declined to rule on this issue.
Should the Supreme Court rule on this issue?
Do the merits of the 1969 case apply to Social Media as described in the article?
If the decision were up to you, what would you decide?