CONNECTICUT— A U.S. District Court judge ruled Thursday that a student had not clearly established her First Amendment right to criticize her principal in an off-campus blog that used coarse language, denying the student a trial on her claim.
"Off-campus speech can become on-campus speech with the click of a mouse," wrote Judge Mark Kravitz, defending school officials who could not reasonably be expected "to predict where the line between on- and off-campus speech will be drawn in this new digital era."
What I find interesting about this case is that as an educator it is assumed that I will be teaching students not only facts and information but also how to be respectful of others. Yet, people object, especially parents because their kid is always the angel, when you hold the student responsible for their actions. What is really sad is that hardly no one knows what freedom is anymore. Granted the student might have the power to say what she wants about her principal, but she must claim responsibility for those actions and words she wrote about her principal (as part of freedom means claiming responsibility for one's actions). I am not a lawyer, but I'm am pretty certain that slander is not protected by the first amendment without first proving that it is true. In other words , when she called her principal a "douche bag" she must first prove that is a hygienic implement used by women on a certain unmentioned private body part.
Personally, I think I would have had the student rewrite her blog post in a way that was more specific and to the point that explained what she meant by the term "douche bag." For instance, when one of my students says that an assignment is "gay", which is a very common occurrence, I like to question them: "What do you mean by that? How is the assignment gay? Do you mean happy? Is the assignment happy? Or does it make you happy? Do you mean to say that the assignment is homosexual? Have you seen the assignment engaging in sexual relations with another assignment of the same sex or gender?" Often the student just sheepishly replies, "No. It's just dumb. I don't understand it." Which I usually reply, "Then say what you mean and stop using such vague terms."