Legal Status Summary:
Social Networking / Responsible Internet Use
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ADVICE• The safest course is for staff not to "friend" students on Facebook or other social networks. If you do, be very careful about what you share.
• The Supreme Court Tinker decision in 1969 guides us. The decision was in favor of student free speech unless it disrupts education during the school day. Do not punish students for social networking acts that occur outside of the school day or privately owned network, computer, etc. unless it disrupts the educational environment. (School authority on the matter increases with ownership of network, computer, and venue, however.)
• Follow District Internet Policy and the Student Handbook discipline procedures.
In the Supreme Court "Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District back in 1969, it was established that students may exercise free speech in school as long as it does not disrupt the educational environment. Judges have used the 1969 as guidance in more recent cases involving online character defamation cases. As long as it does not disrupt the school environment, disciplinary measures cannot be taken via the school. The victim, however, may pursue a civil lawsuit.
Two landmark cases heard in the lower courts during the last decade can guide educators' decisions. Two different panels of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals decided differently on the very same day regarding very similar issue, which prompted the hearing by the full panel of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Two different students in two different schools chose to mock and demean their principals online. One student went so far as to create a fake MySpace account. The student portrayed the principal as a pedophile and drug addict. In the Snyder v. Blue Mountain School District, the court upheld the disciplinary action against the student (out of school suspension) because it interfered with education during the school day. In the other case, known as Layshock v. Hermitage School District, the parody of the principal did not substantially disrupt the school environment, so the judges ruled in favor of the student.
If the student action off school grounds does not substantially interfere with education during the school day, however, do not punish the student.excerpt from Wired.com