School Officials Punish Student for Saying Bad Things About Them on Her Home Computer

It often seems like school officials are waging a war on the first amendment. Only recently, school officials in Alaska prevailed in the “Bong hits 4 Jesus” case, a major rollback of student rights and free speech interests. Now, school officials are seeking to extend their reach not only to public demonstrations like the Alaskan case but the Internet and extracurricular speech. Avery Doninger, a student as the Lewis S. Mills High School in Connecticut is being punished for calling school officials a name on the Internet and saying that an administrator is “pissed off.” She appears to be right, they barred her from serving in  a student government position because they do not like what she writes at home. Now there is a valuable lesson — it just belongs to a different political system.

Lewis S. Mills High School officials are peeved over Doninger’s complaints about their canceling the school’s annual Jamfest or battle of the bands. She had helped coordinate the event and said that “‘Jamfest’ is canceled due to douchebags in central office.”

It would seem an easy case of over-reaching by school officials, but U.S. District Judge Mark Kravitz, sided with the school and said that it could monitor extracurricular statements and punish students for such statements. It is not up to the Court of Appeals.

If upheld, this would constitute another blow to student speech rights. While the Supreme Court has said that students do not leave their rights at the schoolhouse gate, it seems that fewer and fewer rights make it past the door. For a prior case, click here

For the full story, click here

27 thoughts on “School Officials Punish Student for Saying Bad Things About Them on Her Home Computer”

  1. Wow, incredible blog layout! How long have you been running a blog for?

    you made running a blog look easy. The overall look of your site is wonderful, as well as the content material!

  2. mom:

    I think you would do well to explain to your kids, that anytime they are called to the office to answer any questions, they should ask, repeatedly if necessary, to be able to make a call to their parents. Schools sometimes see themselves as agents of the cops, and if so they should be handled the same way. I have even recommended that some of my clients send certified letters to the principal expressly stating that their kid is not to be questioned by anyone unless a parent, guardian, or legal representative is present.

  3. Kids at our school were called in after the school received an anonymous email with Facebook pictures of students with a beer can pyramid (no student was shown drinking or with beer can in hand). Officials called the students in to ask if they were drinking, who all the kids were and where it was taken. They were told they HAD to answer (no other adult or parent was present to advise the students). Being good kids, they told the truth and were punished. Not only does this process bother me but that it came from an anonymous source (probably another student with a vendetta). Can anything be done?

  4. Scarlett:

    “But the Supreme Court has ruled that children are the property of their parents–not the government.”

    I am not aware of the expression of such archaic thinking since the Dred Scott v. Sandford opinion. I am also not aware of any current law that supports the proposition that anyone or anything “owns” children as property. What case are you referring to?

  5. I’ve been paying attention to the limitations on our freedom of speech, especially in our schools because I teach at a local community college, for some time now. It is getting more and more ridiculous. I have been “called on the carpet” twice during my tenure for admitting that I am Wiccan in a college classroom. But that aside, people will complain. The fact is that we are giving more and more power to the government to not only control adults but also to control our children. All the talk about banning guns or banning free speech is touted in the name of protecting the children. But the Supreme Court has ruled that children are the property of their parents–not the government. That being the case, the responsibility falls to the parents to protect them from whatever evils they perceive.

    But I digress. In this case, it seems obvious that this student was targeted; otherwise, why would they look into her personal comments off campus? And why should they have access to those comments? Should she not be allowed to “sound off” about her teachers? It’s much better than the alternative of keeping it bottled up until it reaches a boiling point from which there is no return.

    As a teacher, I expect that not every student in my class will like the class or my policies. Anyone who works with the public in any capacity has to accept that as part of the job. So why are we letting these teachers play the victim when there was really no harm done?

  6. Looks like Sen. Diane Feinstein is on Justice Roberts’
    wavelength after all. She closely studied Morse vs. Frederick
    & wants to send free speech to the principal’s office.
    In 2008 (vs. 2002) Olympic torch relay, she would allow
    “free speech zones”; possibly crammed in to a VW Beetle
    or maybe Superman’s phone booth if not occupied.

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