The Curious Case of Student Speech
I had been meaning to comment on this Slate article for the last week or so, but I kept getting distracted. I don’t want to recount the article in too much detail, because it really is worth reading in its entirety. But in a nutshell, the article concerns a case decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. The issue in the case is whether a school can discipline a student for posting a rap song online that was critical of two PE teachers who were allegedly harassing female students. The 5th Circuit upheld the discipline and the student has asked the United States Supreme Court to review it. I believe it is still awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court whether to grant cert and hear the appeal. The Supreme Court has discretion whether to accept appeals.
It will be interesting to see if the current 8 member court will take the case. But I hope they do. The leading case on student speech – Tinker v. Des Moines — was decided in 1969. Life has changed dramatically in the nearly 50 years since that decision. And schools continually grapple with whether and how to address student speech that takes place on social media – off school property and outside school hours. Right now, the Tinker case seems to allow the school to exercise authority over that speech. It may be time to tell schools to butt out of online chatter. And that’s not just a First Amendment issue. Too many of these cases seem to involve a thin skinned teacher or administrator whose feelings get hurt by some innocuous comment. Life would be better for all if the “adults” would suck it up and get on with life.