Two “divergent” rulings on the use of MySpace or similar networks to mock a school administrator by students were reviewed by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals and a ruling in favor of the First Amendment was narrowly achieved in both cases.
Students in separate Pennsylvania school districts were suspended after making “parody” accounts targeting school principals. Both students filed suit claiming their right to free speech had been violated, and the 3rd Circuit ruled in favor of one of the students but against the other. After a review, both students were found to have been within the parameters of the First Amendment when engaging in the behavior on MySpace.
While the 3rd Circuit ruled in favor of the students owing to the fact that their postings were unlikely to cause disruption within the school, the opinion wasn’t unanimous:
However, six judges who dissented in one of the cases said they feared the majority ruling would allow salacious online attacks against school officials to go unpunished, AP reports.
“It allows a student to target a school official and his family with malicious and unfounded accusations about their character in vulgar, obscene, and personal language,” Judge Michael Fisher wrote.
The ACLU praised the decision for not punishing students who decide to engage in speech that may offend administrators outside of school. Do you think that students should be regulated in off-hours? Would an opposite ruling have been judicial overreach?