Court debates free speech on myspace

    A federal appeals court in Philadelphia will be deciding two cases tackling the intersection of internet free speech and public school discipline. In both cases, schools disciplined students for mocking their principals online.

    A federal appeals court in Philadelphia will be deciding two cases tackling the intersection of internet free speech and public school discipline. In both cases, schools disciplined students for mocking their principals online.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090603spmyspace.mp3]

    Students have always written on the bathroom wall, but what if that bathroom wall is on the internet? The cases involve students who created social networking sites that made fun of school principals using juvenile sexual descriptions.

    In the past, courts have ruled that public school students retain their free speech rights at school so long as there’s no substantial disruption. Outside the school, administrators had no jurisdiction over what students said or did.

    But University of Pennsylvania law professor Seth Kreimer says the courts are struggling with speech on the internet.

    Kreimer: The relatively settled rules that made a distinction on the basis of geography, the school house door, are unsettled by the fact that there is no schoolhouse door in cyberspace.

    Kreimer says he hopes these cases will encourage school districts to educate students on the ethics of cyberspace.

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