Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser Tracing the Boundaries of Public School Authority Over Student Cyberspeech

45 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2008  

Kyle Wesley Brenton

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law


As more and more public school students express themselves via email, instant messages, and online communities such as MySpace and Facebook, more and more school administrators reach beyond the schoolhouse gates to censor and punish students for that online expression. While First Amendment jurisprudence provides a framework for determining when a school may censor a student's on-campus speech, authority to regulate off-campus - much less online - speech remains a gray area.

Consonant with the Supreme Court's repeated admonition that the school environment itself possesses special characteristics which permit more intrusive regulation of student speech, this Note contends that courts should evaluate the connection between a particular student online expression and the school environment in order to determine whether or not the school has the authority to censor it.

In Part I, this Note sets forth the jurisprudential framework whereby schools may censor student speech and examines lower court cases addressing student cyberspeech. Part II demonstrates that the prevailing approach fails utterly to help courts draw meaningful distinctions between which cyberspeech is "student speech" and which is not. Finally, Part III argues that courts should apply the principles of personal jurisdiction to student cyberspeech by analogy to ensure that any school's censorship is supported by minimum contacts between the online speech and the school environment such that the exercise of school power does not offend notions of fair play and substantial justice.

Keywords: Student Speech, Morse, Cyberspeech, First Amendment, Online, Internet, Personal Jurisdiction, Tinker, Student Rights

JEL Classification: K00, K19, K39, K49

Suggested Citation

Brenton, Kyle Wesley, Tracing the Boundaries of Public School Authority Over Student Cyberspeech. Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 92, No. 4, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Kyle Brenton (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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