Students' First Amendment Rights in the Age of the Internet: Off-Campus Cyberspeech and School Regulation

44 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2009 Last revised: 24 May 2014

Jacob Tabor

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Date Written: March 1, 2009

Abstract

Public school students have been using the Internet to tease, bully, and ridicule their classmates, teachers, and schools. The Supreme Court has held that schools can punish students for some speech without violating the constitution, if it is uttered on school grounds during school hours. Courts, however, have been divided over when, if ever, schools may punish students for comparable off-campus cyberspeech. Because the Supreme Court has provided no direct guidance, this Note examines the Supreme Court’s view of students’ First Amendment rights on campus, the student-teacher relationship, and basic First Amendment principles to determine whether schools may punish students for off-campus cyberspeech that would otherwise be protected by the First Amendment. This Note concludes that although, in some circumstances, schools may punish students for off-campus cyberspeech that attacks their fellow students, it is unconstitutional for schools to do the same where the student speech targets teachers, administrators, or the school itself.

Keywords: student speech, cyberspeech, cyberbully, off-campus, first amendment, student rights, Tinker, Fraser, Hazelwood, Morse, secondary school, school regulation, myspace, facebook

Suggested Citation

Tabor, Jacob, Students' First Amendment Rights in the Age of the Internet: Off-Campus Cyberspeech and School Regulation (March 1, 2009). Boston College Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 2, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1492422

Jacob Nickerson Tabor (Contact Author)

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ( email )

United States

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