Supreme Court Rejects Student Social-Media Cases

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A main concern of the lower courts is that the 1969 opinion is out of date, and should not apply in the modern age of social media.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?


5 thoughts on “Supreme Court Rejects Student Social-Media Cases

  1. I find this particular case not to be applicable in this particular case, the Supreme Court has bigger matters to deal with than school suspensions (But seriously, 10 days for a fake Myspace Profile?), the decision should rely within the school district and let the state educators handle it. I do not believe that the 1969 opinion is necessarily out of date, its basis “a public school may not suppress a students speech unless it materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school” can definitely apply to social media. Children are living their life through these social media networks and using them as outlets for whatever they please. If someone posts on their Facebook/Twitter, then it is out there for public consumption in the same realm that it is for athletes/actors/public figures. If a student posts threats to the school, it should be handled the same way it would if a child make a threat the old way via phone/letter/etc. As for a more applicable post to this speech topic, if a student seriously disrespects a teacher/principal, derogatory statements it should be handled as if the student got up and said those things in the class or were overheard on the playground. The examples can go on and on..

  2. I agree with all the above statements. I believes students/children/teenagers need to be aware of what they are posting on social media sites. They should be responsible and accountable for what they post and face punishment if they post anything disrespectful or that can endanger others. I think schools and parents together need to do a better job of educating their children and letting them know there are consequences to posting this type of content.

  3. I agree too. I think students need to be careful with what they say through social media and I think the original case does still hold true. In employment law, we learned if that speech does not allow the employer to maintain an effective and efficient workplace then it is in violation. In the case of the fake myspace page that the student created of the principal, it seems this may be more of a case of defamation since it insinuated the principal was a sex addict and pedophile and that disrupts the work place if parents, students and teachers believe that.

  4. I’m on the same boat. I think there needs to be more social media etiquette discussions with children. My sister is a high school student, and she has explained that some students share explicit posts about alcohol and drug use that have caught the attention of administrators. Is this a good example of how school’s are not just concerned with self-expression, but also with criminal activity. I do think the Supreme Court should weigh in. This is a new part of life that isn’t going away, and we need to start having guidelines regarding it.

  5. One thing that should be considered is that students may be making posts that interfere with the learning process or distracts other students while they are in school via smartphones, an iTouch, tablet, school computer, etc. Not all of the posts that may be causing issues are made off school grounds. In agreement with the earlier posts, school administrators should address issues that come to their attention in the traditional matter because they are obliged to address issues such as underage drinking, drug use, bullying, etc.

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