Student Speech Rights in the Digital Age
77 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2008 Last revised: 8 Sep 2014
Date Written: October 20, 2008
For several decades courts have struggled to determine when, if ever, public schools should have the power to restrict student expression that does not occur on school grounds during school hours. In the last several years, courts have struggled with this same question in a new context - the digital media. The dramatic increase in the numbe r of student speech cases involving the Internet, mobile phones, and video cameras begs for a closer examination of the scope of school officials' authority to censor the expression of minors as well as the scope of juvenile speech rights generally. This Article takes a close look at all the various justifications for limiting juvenile speech rights and concludes that none of them supports granting schools broad authority to limit student speech in the digital media, even with respect to violent or harassing expression. Furthermore, this Arrticle argues that the tests most courts and commentators have applied to determine whether a school may control student speech grant schools far too much authority to restrict juvenile speech rights. The Article concludes that the primary approach schools should take to most digital speech is not to punish or restrict such expression, but instead to educate students about how to use digital media responsibly.
Keywords: juvenile speech rights, bong hits for Jesus, Morse v. Frederick, digital media, student expression, Tinker v. Des. Moines Independent School District, First Amendment
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