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Can Schools Regulate Cyberbullying, Harassment, and Social Networking?

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2006 TIES Conference
Dr. Scott McLeod
CASTLE, U. Minnesota
www.scottmcleod.net

Published in: Economy & Finance, Education
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Can Schools Regulate Cyberbullying, Harassment, and Social Networking?

  1. 1. Can Schools Regulate Cyberbullying, Harassment, and Social Networking? Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D.
  2. 2. Get this presentation! <ul><li>www.scottmcleod.net/ties2006 </li></ul>
  3. 3. CASTLE <ul><li>Nation’s only university center dedicated to K-12 technology leadership issues </li></ul><ul><li>15 credits of graduate coursework </li></ul><ul><li>Postsecondary Partnership Program </li></ul><ul><li>Lots of resources for K-12 leaders </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Principal Blogging Project </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>School Data Tutorials and other DDDM resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Principals Technology Leadership Assessment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>and more! </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Disclaimer <ul><li>We are not in an attorney-client relationship. Do not construe anything I say as accurate legal advice. For any and all legal questions, I strongly recommend that you speak with a reputable attorney who specializes in school law issues. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Warning <ul><li>This presentation is rated PG-13 for vulgar language, violent imagery, content of lewd and sexual nature </li></ul>
  6. 6. Principle 1 <ul><li>Schools have an affirmative obligation to protect students and/or employees from harassing, threatening, and/or bullying conduct </li></ul>
  7. 7. Principle 2 <ul><li>The default rule is that student speech in schools is protected. </li></ul>
  8. 8. 3 Supreme Court exceptions <ul><li>material and substantial disruption (or reasonable forecast thereof) ( Tinker v. Des Moines ) </li></ul><ul><li>vulgarity ( Bethel v. Fraser ) </li></ul><ul><li>legitimate pedagogical concern ( Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier ) </li></ul>
  9. 9. What about student conduct outside of school? <ul><li>Fights off school grounds </li></ul><ul><li>Illegal drug / alcohol use </li></ul><ul><li>Underground newspapers </li></ul><ul><li>Peaceful protests </li></ul>
  10. 10. Principle 3 <ul><li>Schools may discipline students for out-of-school conduct that substantially interferes with the normal operations of the school </li></ul>
  11. 11. Beussink (1998, MO) <ul><li>High school senior made web page highly critical of school administration; some vulgarity </li></ul><ul><li>Invited readers to contact the school principal to express opinions about school and linked to school web page </li></ul><ul><li>Another student showed web page to teacher </li></ul><ul><li>Student suspended for 10 days; failed four classes </li></ul>
  12. 12. Can school discipline student? <ul><li>Yes </li></ul><ul><li>No </li></ul>
  13. 13. J.S. v. Bethlehem (2000, PA) <ul><li>8th-grader made “Teacher Sux” web site </li></ul><ul><li>Disrespectful language re: principal </li></ul><ul><li>Violent language / imagery re: teacher </li></ul><ul><li>Teacher fear, stress, medical leave </li></ul><ul><li>Student suspended for 10 days, recommended for expulsion </li></ul>
  14. 14. Can school discipline student? <ul><li>Yes </li></ul><ul><li>No </li></ul>
  15. 15. Emmet (2000, WA) <ul><li>High school senior / basketball team co-captain made “Unofficial Kentlake High Home Page” with mock obituaries </li></ul><ul><li>Visitors could vote on who would “die” next </li></ul><ul><li>TV show ran story on web page with “hit list” </li></ul><ul><li>Student suspended for five days, including basketball team’s playoff game </li></ul>
  16. 16. Can school discipline student? <ul><li>Yes </li></ul><ul><li>No </li></ul>
  17. 17. Killion (2001, PA) <ul><li>High school student / member of track team made an insulting “Top Ten” list about athletic director </li></ul><ul><li>E-mailed list to friends; list made it to school </li></ul><ul><li>Student suspended for 10 days </li></ul>
  18. 18. Can school discipline student? <ul><li>Yes </li></ul><ul><li>No </li></ul>
  19. 19. Coy (2002, OH) <ul><li>Student created web site for skate boarder group that contained some insulting, profane material </li></ul><ul><li>Student accessed web site at school </li></ul><ul><li>No other students viewed site </li></ul><ul><li>Suspended for 4 days, expelled for 80 days (later modified to 80-day probation period) </li></ul>
  20. 20. Can school discipline student? <ul><li>Yes </li></ul><ul><li>No </li></ul>
  21. 21. Mahaffey (2002, MI) <ul><li>Created ‘Satan’s web page’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘people that are cool’ / ‘people I wish would die’/ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘movies that rock’ / ‘music I hate’ / ‘music that is cool’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>‘Satan’s mission for you this week’ </li></ul><ul><li>Student suspended, recommended for expulsion </li></ul>
  22. 22. Can school discipline student? <ul><li>Yes </li></ul><ul><li>No </li></ul>
  23. 23. How’d you do? <ul><li>Use of Tinker test ( material and substantial disruption ) </li></ul><ul><li>The only case that schools won was J.S. v. Bethlehem (teacher medical leave) </li></ul><ul><li>Strong protections for students’ constitutionally-protected speech rights </li></ul>
  24. 24. Principle 4 <ul><li>If they have a strong acceptable use policy, schools can regulate student cyberspeech if done during school time and/or using school computers </li></ul>
  25. 25. Principle 5 <ul><li>Schools have more leeway with employees </li></ul>
  26. 26. Employee cyberspeech <ul><li>School employees are “agents” / representatives of the school </li></ul><ul><li>Employee speech protected only if </li></ul><ul><ul><li>on a matter of legitimate public concern, and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>not outweighed by school’s responsibility to manage its internal affairs and to provide effective and efficient service to the public </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Upcoming Supreme Court case
  28. 28. Review <ul><li>Substantial interference is a high hurdle for schools </li></ul><ul><li>Schools can always educate </li></ul><ul><li>Schools should regulate with caution </li></ul><ul><li>Private lawsuits are always a possibility </li></ul><ul><li>Schools have more leeway with employees than with students </li></ul>
  29. 29. Get this presentation! <ul><li>www.scottmcleod.net/ties2006 </li></ul>
  30. 30. Copyright notice <ul><li>http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5 </li></ul><ul><li>www.scottmcleod.net </li></ul>

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