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School Power Over Student Web Speech? 369

Posted by Cliff
from the first-amendment-vs-private-institutions dept.
Petey_Alchemist asks: "In the wake of the Pope John XIII student weblogging ban, the online lives of students are once again being examined by their academic institutions. News outlets are covering a series of recent events--most notably the expulsion of a Fisher College sophomore (who also happened to be President of the Student Government) after he posted in a 'controversial' Facebook group. Facebook, for those of you who don't know, is an incredibly popular social networking site for American college students. The fact that you must have a college email account to join provides some modicum (re: illusion) of privacy, but doesn't keep faculty or administrative members from joining and patrolling the website. Bottom line: Facebook, Pope John XIII, and other online student speech cases are popping up all over the place yet no case defining the amount of control a school has over a student based on that student's web speech has come before the Supreme Court. When will this happen? Moreover, what will be the result when it finally does?"
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School Power Over Student Web Speech?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:33PM (#13985369)
    The administrators just don't want students blogging about the steamy sex lives they never had. It's jealously, plain and simple.

    Frantic, hot, recursive wget'd jealousy.
    • Free Speech (Score:5, Insightful)

      by queenb**ch (446380) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @11:15PM (#13985713) Homepage Journal
      As another poster metioned, so far these are all private schools. That means that the parents are paying a LOT of money for little Johnnie or Suzie to attend. Surely if the parents are unhappy, they will put their child in another school. My thought is that the dollars will win out. I do wish though, that the ACLU would make itself useful and take some of the to the Supreme Court.

      2 cents,

      Queen B
      • Re:Free Speech (Score:3, Insightful)

        by damiam (409504)
        IANAL, but if these are private schools, the ACLU has no case (and no objection in the first place). There's nothing wrong with a private institution asking that you agree to certain terms in order to attend school there.
    • Speaking of Admin, where do I add the Pope to be one of my friends? Surely that'll make some extra H077 lady Hax0rz add me!
    • Frantic, hot, recursive wget'd jealousy.

      I was thinking PgetD jealousy.

  • When asked, (Score:3, Funny)

    by AWhiteFlame (928642) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:34PM (#13985376) Homepage
    God was not available for comment, however.
  • That's why I go to a state school.
    • Re:state school (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jrockway (229604) * <jon-nospam@jrock.us> on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:45PM (#13985487) Homepage Journal
      Agreed. But watch out for your computer center's AUP -- some schools (like mine) have been sued and lost for censoring their students, but they still refuse to update their AUP to be more realistic. UIC refused to agree that their policies were unreasonable, and made no offer to review them*, so I told them I no longer agreed to their policy and cancelled my accounts. They have been dragging their feet on this (since it's attracted the attention of other branches of the University), so my web page is still up :) Pity I haven't had time to detail my problems with their policy and put it up there.

      * The policy-makers have their heads firmly lodged in their asses -- the excuse I always get is "our lawyers said this is OK". I guess their lawyers don't understand what a court ruling against them means.

      If you care about your rights online, I suggest you do what I did -- cancel your account if the policy is unreasonable. You can get free e-mail anywhere these days. If their policy interferes with your classwork, be sure to let the University's higher-ups know about it. Schools have no right to tell their students what is and is not acceptable speech, especially schools funded entirely by the government!
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Agreed. But watch out for your computer center's AUP -- some schools (like mine) have been sued and lost for censoring their students, but they still refuse to update their AUP to be more realistic.

        So do the American thing. Sue. Since they already lost once, failing to update their policies (after a reasonable time period) shows bad faith, along with clear disregard and contempt for the court's authority. Judges don't like that. In fact, they often bitchslap people/organizations for that.
        • > Sue.

          I don't think I was damaged by their actions. Plus, I don't have time or money, so I guess in that sense, they win. If they want to convince all of their good students to transfer somewhere else, then let them. Then they'll go away and they won't be a problem.

          This is the same school / computer center that told Dan Bernstein that he couldn't work on his djbdns anymore because "only viruses use port 53".
    • Re:state school (Score:4, Insightful)

      by BVis (267028) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @11:29PM (#13985821)
      State institutions (at any level) are not required to allow free speech. This seems contradictory when you consider the First Amendment, and IMHO it is, but students still get punished for speaking their minds.

      The most widespread example is student-run newspapers in high schools and colleges. Students are punished for taking positions in their writing that are critical of the institution, especially at the high school level. Students (and I know this from observing the situation myself at my high school) have been suspended for attempting to run editorials or stories that don't toe the party line. You could argue that they're using school funds, so why should the school print something critical of itself? Because being a state institution, the faculty (in theory) should be required to allow any speech, no matter how damaging or critical.

      In practice, not so much. Courts have routinely decided in the schools' favor when these cases have gone to trial. The message this sends to the students is very disturbing (to me at least): Your rights end when you walk through the door. The (required by law) act of attending a public school (barring the home-schooled and those who attend charter schools) requires that the students surrender what IMHO is the most important civil right that American citizens enjoy.

      Is it any wonder that these students have no respect for authority? Everyone acts so shocked when the students have total contempt for the school and everything it represents; they don't stop to think that they're teaching them one thing (Americans have lots of rights) but practicing another (You have no rights, shut up or you're getting suspended.)

      Here's a free clue folks: Treat people with respect, and you'll get respect back. Don't treat them like second-class citizens and then wonder why nobody shows up for the pep rally.
      • Got any links to rulings where the school has been allowed to expel someone for writing a school newspaper article that was criticle about a state school?
  • Personal Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SeanMon (929653) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:38PM (#13985412) Homepage Journal
    A student at the school I attend was recently expelled because she posted photos on a public webpage of herself drinking. The school found out about it (I think an IT guy was surfing and searched for my school name on a free photosharing site), and the girl was expelled.

    The lesson: don't be stupid about what you post on publicly viewable websites, such as blogs. You never know who's going to read it.
    • by cytoman (792326)
      She should fight this in court...AFAIK (and IANAL) the courts no longer allow digital photos as evidence because of the ease with which they can be manipulated.
      • It's a private school, which doesn't have to follow strictly to first ammendment rights. The school also has a strict drugs/alcohol policy, and the student had already gotten in trouble previously with alcohol.
      • by mrchaotica (681592) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @11:40PM (#13985910)
        No, she should fight this in court on the grounds that the school has no right to limit what she does off-campus, in her own free time, even if it's illegal (since it's the police's job to do that, not the school's). Moreover, she should fight it on the grounds that the school can't do that even if the student signed a contract saying that it can, because the right to do whatever you want in your free time can't be signed away in a contract.
        • This is not entirely true. Conservative campuses, which do very well for no known reason, often have agreements that you must sign to attend school there.

          These agreements can force you to not drink, do drugs, or be slanderous. Bethel in St. Paul requires that no student on campus dance. Ever.

          If you sign away the rights, you sign them away. If you say they can A. to you because you do B., don't be mad when they catch you doing A. and B. comes down with a vengence.
        • by stewby18 (594952) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @02:11AM (#13986732)

          No, she should fight this in court on the grounds that the school has no right to limit what she does off-campus, in her own free time, even if it's illegal

          That's absolutely true. It's equally true that she has no right to force a private institution to allow her to attend./p

      • "She should fight this in court...AFAIK (and IANAL) the courts no longer allow digital photos as evidence because of the ease with which they can be manipulated."

        There's that and it cannot really be proven via photo alone that she was drinking alcohol. It wouldn't be hard to make a liquid that looks like an alcoholic beverage. Not sure if it matters, but I'm really curious if the pictures of her were taken at the school. Legal or not, that would be pretty bone-headed. Heh.

        The post you replied to had a p
    • by CRC'99 (96526)
      Ok - there are a number of issues here.

      1) Was the student photographed drinking on school premises?
      2) Was the student photographed drinking during school hours?
      3) Was the school visible in any of these photos?

      If not, then the school has no say at all in what said student does in their own personal time. This is like my company firing me for being in a pub brawl. Yeah, I probably shouldn't be in pub brawls, but it's none of the companies business what I do outside of work hours.
      • Oh, and where are the pics? :P
      • You'd think that would be the rules they follow. However, a number of schools (public and private) have honor codes where they can punish you for things you do outside of school. For example, students at my university (UNC Chapel Hill [unc.edu]) are regularly punished by the university when convincted of DUI, even if it's nowhere near campus.

        Personally, I don't think it's any of the university's business what crimes you commit off campus, but that's the way things are.
        • There's a difference here:

          DUI is a serious offense, and someone who is prone to driving under the influence can be percieved as a threat to the college. Kicking somebody out under these circumstances is easily justifiable in my mind. They were convicted of a crime, and as such, certain rights of theirs are restricted.

          On the other hand, there is nothing illegal about keeping a blog. A school punishing students for an activity they perform outside of school that is also perfectly legal outside of school is
        • by mpe (36238)
          Personally, I don't think it's any of the university's business what crimes you commit off campus, but that's the way things are.

          If you are commiting crimes on campus that is a good reason for their being concerned you might commit crimes on campus.
      • This is like my company firing me for being in a pub brawl.

        No, it is not. Being an employee vs being a student are very different situations.
        • by aztektum (170569)
          Yeah, as a student YOU PAY THEM to go to school there. If I were her I'd rather be in a school that wasn't interested in dictating my life to me after handing them a bunch of money for a diploma.
      • by raoul666 (870362)
        Your company can fire you for doing drugs outside of work hours, can't they? Don't some companies in the US drug test?
    • by Browncoat (928784)
      EXACTLY. At my college alcohol isn't allowed on campus -- trust me, the place is better off without alcohol involved. All of these "Drinkers anonymous" groups popped up on Facebook and students started to get into trouble once their RA's or faculty or administration started looking around Facebook (either joining it or just looking) and found the groups they were in. They couldn't really prove thestudents had been drinking unless they said something -- which several of them did, on the group message boards.
      • They couldn't really prove the students had been drinking unless they said something -- which several of them did, on the group message boards.
        That's hardly proof. "Oh, I was kidding." or "I didn't post it, someone figured out my password" The second is actually possible, since facebook doesn't keep a comment log, AFAIK (and I'm on it)
    • <I>
      The lesson: don't be stupid about what you post on publicly viewable websites, such as blogs. You never know who's going to read it.</I><BR><BR>
      Actually, I believe the lesson is "before exercising your first ammendment right, consider whether or not any private institutions are going to use it to discriminate against you."
      <BR><BR>
      I personally find it sickening that the First Ammendment is viewed with such dismissal in America, but hey. It's your country, your constitut
  • by Petey_Alchemist (711672) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:38PM (#13985414)
    Preface: IANAL, but I played one for years in Mock Trial.

    It's really quite interesting to see how much disciplinary latitude schools have. The trend that I discovered--after we actually tried a case in Mock Trial regarding an infraction of the student handbook--is that, generally speaking, a student handbook is the rule of law for a school (barring any outright infringements on students rights.)

    Therefore, schools have quite a bit of latitude in terms of punishment if they have a "detrimental conduct" clause. I myself was disciplined essentially for posting critical comments of a fellow student on my own webpage, as I posted earlier. [slashdot.org]

    What I find really interesting, though, is the role the Internet is going to play in our public lives from now on. I wrote an extensive post in the other thread, [slashdot.org] but to sum it up...well, if today's journalists are willing to scour through a high school yearbook of Samuel Alito in order to find hints about his political beliefs, is it so hard to believe that my generation (speaking as a college student) will find themselves hamstrung by acts of folly conducted on the Internet? It's quite easy to connect to my pyromaniac website [toydestruction.com] to porn and warez websites. Never mind my blog [peteyworld.com], livejournal, slashdot and assorted forum accounts.

    It's an electronic goldmine for the next generation of muck raking journalists to sort through--with ever more powerful search technology.

    We'll become a generation where we have to admit--because we've seen the electronic evidence--that, for example, our next President was, as a teenager, a Green Day listening, Microsoft hating, MySpace blogging, whiny, self absorbed git.

    Wait 'til that shock hits...maybe then people will really self-censor. Today, you've got expelled college students. Tomorrow...e-scandals?

    --Petey
    • Absolutely (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Think of all the people who've made themselves essentially unhirable due to flame wars they started 15 years ago on Usenet. I don't hire anyone without a thorough Googling.
    • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:47PM (#13985499) Homepage
      We'll become a generation where we have to admit--because we've seen the electronic evidence--that, for example, our next President was, as a teenager, a Green Day listening, Microsoft hating, MySpace blogging, whiny, self absorbed git.

      So basically you're saying that the next President will be better than the one we've got now?
    • What's truly amazing, however, is that students *aren't* punished severely for things such as rioting. After the Red Sox won the world series the local colleges has many riots with students flipping cars, fighting, etc. Very little happened to any of them. But *dare* to speak your mind and you get kicked out of school?
      • If there is one thing I learned about school. The less you play by their rules the more successful you become. It's no wonder that I know so many college dropouts who are now very successful business owners and employees in all kinds of companies. And so many A students keep going back to school cause they can't find a job. Note that I am speaking for so many people I have seen, not flamebaiting.

        There ought to be a college study done one day to prove that getting As and MBAs is useless the majority of t
        • If there is one thing I learned about school. The less you play by their rules the more successful you become. ... getting As and MBAs is useless the majority of the time.

          Methinks the uselessness here has more to do with "MBA" than it does with "A," if you see my point.

    • We'll become a generation where we have to admit--because we've seen the electronic evidence--that, for example, our next President was, as a teenager, a Green Day listening, Microsoft hating, MySpace blogging, whiny, self absorbed git.


      I'll take that over a former coke sniffing, alcohol abusing, draft dodging, duty shirking President.
      • I'll take that over a former coke sniffing, alcohol abusing, draft dodging, duty shirking President.

        In all fairness, most of that slur applies to our past two presidents. What I want is a president that knows how to do his job, preserves civil liberties, and doesn't give money to the rich at everybody else's expense.

  • by cytoman (792326) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:38PM (#13985415)
    No matter what the circumstances, no matter what the fora, and no matter what, I think that Freedom of Speech is to be protected. Any attempt at stifling it with whatever justification is the first step towards a slippery slope leading to authoritarian rule and erosion of all kinds of privacy and freedoms...albeit this could take many decades to actually happen.

    If the erosion of freedoms starts now, I fear that by the time I die, the world will be much, much different from the heydays of the internet when everything was open and without restrictions...I fear that we will have a very strict and monitored society where your every move will be logged and your every thought will be scrutinized for compliance with the dominant peoples' satisfaction.
    • your free speech is protected. Students at catholic schools are allowed to blog all they like. But that doesn't mean that private schools have to include all students. Leave the school - Then say what you want about it.
    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @11:23PM (#13985765)
      No matter what the circumstances, no matter what the fora, and no matter what, I think that Freedom of Speech is to be protected. Any attempt at stifling it with whatever justification is the first step towards a slippery slope leading to authoritarian rule and erosion of all kinds of privacy and freedoms...albeit this could take many decades to actually happen.

      The kid suggested "eliminating"(executing) a campus police officer AND solicited others to attempt what can only be termed entrapment.

      Furthermore, you don't have protections of freedom of speech with ANY organization except the government. I'm really tired of people claiming that they have "Freedom of Speech" every time they get in trouble for spouting whatever they feel like at work, or school, or on private property. EVEN FURTHER, those rights do not include liable, slander, or assault (ie, "I'm going to rape you with this baseball bat!" is not constitutionally protected speech) to name a few. There are CENTURIES of precedence on this issue.

      If you RTFA: "Fisher College spokesman John McLaughlin said, ''Cameron Walker was found to be in violation of the Student Guide and Code of Conduct.""

      THAT, boys and girls, is why he was expelled. It's not the fact that he had a web log (I refuse to call them blogs); it's that he threatened the life of a school employee. It's pretty fucking clear-cut to me, and I'm really tired of hearing a lot of whining about "oh, poor him". The guy did something completely unjustified and COMPLETELY stupid. He knew the consequences (especially since he was class/school president) of violating the school's code of conduct; it was a private school. His speech was not protected, and furthermore, is most likely criminal in nature.

      • For God's sakes mod parent up! I so wish I hadn't squandered mine earler today. The kid was an idiot - case closed.
      • by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @11:48PM (#13985978)

        The kid suggested "eliminating"(executing) a campus police officer AND solicited others to attempt what can only be termed entrapment.

        Or getting him fired. I read some of the passages, and the methods seemed to be a petition, digging up dirt, or entrapment. That isn't murder.

        • Or getting him fired. I read some of the passages, and the methods seemed to be a petition, digging up dirt, or entrapment. That isn't murder.

          Sadly in the legal world, you don't get such a distinction. Prosecution would argue that he had plenty of other wordings to choose from, but that "eliminate" has a strong connotation, particularly if one is speaking about a police officer.

          The officer would then be asked about how he interpreted the statement- which is mostly what matters. It's how the victim int

          • Sadly in the legal world, you don't get such a distinction. Prosecution would argue that he had plenty of other wordings to choose from, but that "eliminate" has a strong connotation, particularly if one is speaking about a police officer.

            Not a lawyer, but I would argue that the suggested methods don't lend themselves to murder.

            It's how the victim interpreted the assault, not how you intended it.

            Well, I didn't see anything about an assault, and most places I look tend to disagree - it's down to your

            • Not a lawyer, [SNIP] Well, I didn't see anything about an assault,

              Neither am I, but I do know that assault is the THREAT of violence. Battery is actually DOING IT. Well, at least, that's the historical reading. Google it if you're curious.

              • I do know that assault is the THREAT of violence.

                And the legal definition that I found seems to require that the victim know about it, presumably at the time it's committed. At best he coould be charged with conspiracy, if intent to commit murder could be proven.I still maintain that it looks like an attempt to oust an officer that's been harrassing students, which isn't actually a crime.

      • While your points are certainly valid, I think the main point that is established by this article is something that may not be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer: that speech on the Internet can and will be used against you.

        You'd be surprised how many students who might not be as familiar with law or technology as you believe that blogs and such, while publicly accessible, enjoy some modicum of privacy. The thought is that, in the vastness of the Internet, nobody is going to actually read yo
      • Furthermore, you don't have protections of freedom of speech with ANY organization except the government. I'm really tired of people claiming that they have "Freedom of Speech" every time they get in trouble for spouting whatever they feel like at [...] school [...]

        You do have freedom of speech at public schools, because public schools are the government.
    • The students still have full freedom of speech; it is merely that private institutions have the freedom to choose their students as they see fit.
  • As far as I'm concerned, these schools can do whatever they want. So far, these are all private school that we're hearing about. They can do whatever they want, that's their right. As soon as it's a public school, though, then we have problems. When the government starts telling you what you can and can't say, that's infringing on your first amendment rights. The school would lose any case like this in a heartbeat.

    But the solution to this problem is simple -- if you're a student at one of these pro-bra
    • If they've got a police force, even if they are somehow private, they have governing powers and should be limitted by our legal restrictions on government -- Bill of Rights, other Amendments, etc. These limitations should apply to any body possessing the force of law -- if its got a police force, its got governing powers. I generally agree with you on the go somewhere else suggestion -- but what if you've spent three or four years there and thousands of dollars and you then find out that its a "pro-brainwa
  • Facebook (Score:5, Informative)

    by NitsujTPU (19263) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:38PM (#13985422)
    Uhmm. Here, professors join the facebook and add their students as friends. They'll announce this behavior in class, and brag of their numbers. It's hardly a covert op.

    Also, the facebook isn't a blog, it's a social networking service.

    While we're at it, there isn't much that you could do in facebook that would be all that damaging. Naked pictures are banned... other than that, you could join a group with a controversial name, but there isn't much in that. I'm a member of "My name's Justin biotch." Lots of people are members of "I went to a public school, bitch." Not here, since most of the kids here are wealthy Ivy Leaguers, born with a silver spoon in their mouths, but, you know, whatever.

    I worry more about what I say on Slashdot.
  • by panth0r (722550) <panth0r@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:39PM (#13985432) Homepage
    To be honest, I think this could happen very soon and I both think and hope that the Supreme Court will be on the side of free speech. Everyone in the United States has a right to free speech, but we also have consequences to bear for taking out freedom of speech too far, in public schools I imagine there will be fewer to no free speech restrictions. However, in private schools, I think they will put a harsh ban on violating their rules if they have any. I imagine that few (private) schools will actually enact AND progressively enforce these rules, but if they do, the punishment will be harsh, like suspension if the pupil does it twice, and expulsion for a third offense. Naturally, the first time will just be a nice "please take the site down NOW." This topic has me baffled, still, my personal belief is that everybody should have the right to free speech, especially when it's approiate, and bad-mouthing one's school (in many cases) is not only normal, it's almost expected for students at some schools, and if a school is so bad that more than 25% of the students express extreme dislike, I also think the school should re-evaluate its priorities.
    • But as ReformedExCon noted [slashdot.org], this is not an issue of free speech--or rather, just an issue of free speech.

      If a college has a defined code of conduct--or, in my school's case, an honor code--and there is photo evidence of the infraction online, than why can't that evidence be admissable? I mean, if you were a school admin and someone showed you a picture they snapped themselves of someone shooting up, you'd consider that to be good evidence, right? Why should that change just because it was posted on Face
    • by realmolo (574068) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @11:26PM (#13985797)
      I see your point, but I disagree.

      I'm not so sure that the "right of free speech" should be something that non-government agencies should be able to ignore. Our lives are dominated by interaction with "private" agencies- be it a private school you attend, or the company you work for, a store you shop at, or a website you post to. If free speech isn't protected at any of these places, then where IS it protected? Is the middle-lane of the state-owned freeway the only place I can express my opinion without fear of consequences?

      Private agencies shouldn't be allowed to punish an individual for LEGAL acts that they simply don't like.

      Of course, no one wants the government telling them what they have to put up with. And I agree with that completely, but maybe there's some room for compromise. Maybe.
    • If this person said stuff like "Professor X is a lousy professor", I would agree. He absolutely should be allowed to say that.

      But what he apparently did was attempt to launch a conspiracy:

      The offending material posted to Facebook, also provided to the Globe by Walker, read: ''Either we get a petition going [we need at least 500 signatures] or we try and set him up. He's got to do something wrong, in either case, he's gotta foul up at some point . . . anyone willing to get arrested?"
      A day later, on Sept. 21

  • by velocityboy123 (926909) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:44PM (#13985470)
    There have been a lot of cases like this in the public school system in the last few years; when they go to trial the student usually wins. This was just today: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2005-11-07-schoo l-website-suit_x.htm [usatoday.com]
  • by ReformedExCon (897248) <reformed.excon@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:45PM (#13985483)
    The end result of all this is that private schools will become another government agency restricted by law from abridging free speech despite their non-public nature.

    Free Speech is one of those things that is widely misunderstood. It is simply the ability to speak freely and without government interference. The government is restricted from barring you from exercising your right to speak.

    That does not mean that you have that right everywhere. Your rights end, goes the phrase, where mine begin. Private property is one space where you are restricted in your speech. Public property, on the other hand, is where you ought to be unrestricted. Private sector entities (individuals, companies, and organizations) have the right to bar you from activities of the entity if they do not approve of your speech. This used to be an inherent right.

    If we force private institutions to accept any and all free speech, despite the fact that it may injure, slander, or be antithetical to the institutions' charter, then we are in essence forcing them to act as a government agency, i.e. statute-restricted non-discriminatory agency. The institutions do not have the right to act as they deem appropriate, but must act in accord with governmental regulation.

    Constitutional Amendments like the ERA were big steps in usurping the rights of private institutions. If we follow this line of thinking through, where schools ought to be prevented from punishing students who break school rules, then we can see that the end result is that schools and government move closer to each other and the value of private schooling is diminished.

    Will it go that far? Hopefully not, and the school will realize what a mistake it is making. However, the odds are more likely that the growth of government will continue unabated and it will absorb all educational institutions as time goes by, piece by piece, right by right.
    • How's this angle?

      Since the relationship between a private school and the pupil is essentially a business relationship, if the school sanctions a student for conduct that is not specifically forbidden in the agreed upon rules then the school has committed fraud. Fraud is a criminal act and would subject the school's administration to criminal penalties as well as civil liability.

      LK
    • by dvdeug (5033) <[dvdeug] [at] [email.ro]> on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @12:45AM (#13986301)
      All institutions must act in accord with government regulation. Period. It has long been held that private sector entities do not have an arbitrary right to bar you; Souter, in the majority decision for the Supreme Court on "Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston":

      The Massachusetts public accommodations law under which respondents brought suit has a venerable history. At common law, innkeepers, smiths, and others who "made profession of a public employment," were prohibited from refusing, without good reason, to serve a customer. Lane v. Cotton, 12 Mod. 472, 484-485, 88 Eng. Rep. 1458, 1464-1465 (K.B. 1701) (Holt, C. J.); see Bell v. Maryland, 378 U.S. 226, 298, n. 17 (1964) (Goldberg, J., concurring); Lombard v. Louisiana, 373 U.S. 267, 277 (1963) (Douglas, J., concurring). As one of the 19th century English judges put it, the rule was that "[t]he innkeeper is not to select his guests[;] [h]e has no right to say to one, you shall come into my inn, and to another you shall not, as every one coming and conducting himself in a proper manner has a right to be received; and for this purpose innkeepers are a sort of public servants." Rex v. Ivens, 7 Car. & P. 213, 219, 173 Eng. Rep. 94, 96 (N.P. 1835); M. Konvitz & T. Leskes, A Century of Civil Rights 160 (1961).


      The ERA is not a constitutional amendment; it was a proposed constitutional amendment. The civil rights legistlations are based on the principle that the private sector is a large part of American life, and that we don't want to let people of a certain race, religion, or gender be arbitrarily excluded from a large part of American life.

      Here the ideal to be upheld is that an American is permitted to express his or her opinion and to talk freely; if the associations the schools had with their students were voluntary, like those a college has with its students, it would be different. The value of private schooling should not be that it produces a student terrified of exercising his or her rights, or worse, unfamiliar with them.
  • by bmo (77928) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:48PM (#13985504)
    The student in this case absolutely forgot the 11'th commandment

    11. "Cover thine own ass"

    He didn't. He did it all out in the open. If he had kept his little conspiracy among "friends" and at least used an anonymous website instead of broadcasting his plan and name to all-and-sundry, then maybe his scheme might have succeeded. But in this case, he's learned a lesson. Don't Get Caught. If anonymity worked for the Federalist Papers, then it should have been good enough for him. Why he didn't use even an alias (because the website _required_ him to be a verified student), is beyond me.

    About his scheme: If the university cop was truly harrassing students, there were _far better_ ways to nail the guy than enticing other students to "get arrested" for fun and profit.

    --
    BMO
  • What's the big deal? (Score:2, Informative)

    by creimer (824291)
    When these Future Bloggers of America get into the work environment, they will get smack down for hanging out their company's dirty laundry for public display as well. Free speech belongs to the person who owns the press and can afford a good attorney.
  • Student gets $117,500 in website free speech case [usatoday.com]

    OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) A New Jersey school district will pay $117,500 to a student who was punished for creating a website that included critical statements about his middle school. The settlement of the lawsuit brought nearly two years ago follows a decision by a federal judge ruling that Oceanport school administrators violated Ryan Dwyer's free speech rights.

    Details at the URL.

  • by Apreche (239272)
    It's been my understanding that a private school can kick anyone out at any time for any reason as long as you can't prove it was discrimination of some sort. Has anyone heard something to the contrary?
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @11:07PM (#13985647) Homepage
    Here [reason.com] is an interesting article about a site called whototake.com, which was started by James, a student I know at Fullerton College, where I teach. It was a place for students to post online reviews of their professors. Of course, when students rated me highly, I considered it fair, and when they gave me bad ratings, I considered them extremely misguided :-) The sad thing is that James was forced to take down the site due to the threat of a lawsuit. I may have been unhappy with some of the things said about me, but I would never sink so low as to use the threat of a lawsuit against a young college student as a way of suppressing his right to free speech.
  • Downhill (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Psionicist (561330) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @11:13PM (#13985694)
    When I was young I thought USA was a really cool country. For whatever reason, probably because of pop culture export, USA seemed great and my own country (Sweden) boring. I remember a kid on my block was really into the marines, he had a US flag above his bed. He knew lots of presidents, pretty good for someone not native to the country.

    Then I grew older. I realized no country is inherently cool, when you look at the society and politics and not just action movies. USA seemed reasonable though, I remember a history (or geography) lesson in elementary school when a teacher described the basic ideas of the constitution, and the emigration from Sweden->America in the previous centuries. Inspiring.

    Fast forward til now. Do I awe you? No, because in my opinion (which will be modded down really freaking fast), your country is going downhill. You are teaching religion as science, I don't even think fundamentalist muslims do that. Then you sort-of ban freedom of speech by forbidding blogging, of all stupid things to ban (whatever happened to land of the free?), introduce laws like DMCA, and are actively trying to destroy the whole worlds intellectual property laws.

    Think about it.

    Regards,
    Swedish citizen.
    • Trust me .. its not all of us over here .. some of us fight it tooth and nail.
      You just can't help folks who don't want to be helped. Everyone gets the impression that these fringe groups are the mass majority, this is untrue, they are just a motivated and very VOCAL minority, who just has to shout louder than the larger percentage of normal folks, who are more often occupied with the massive amount of work that it takes to just survive in a free market economy. After all - who cares what happens in Kansas s
    • We know! The trouble is that we're surrounded by Bible-thumping idiots, and we can't do anything about it!

      HELP!!!!
    • backlash (Score:2, Interesting)

      by argoff (142580)
      Well first off, the US really is in deep dodo. Especially economics wise, (the debt is reaching Argentine levels) but unfortunately we will probably take down europe with us.

      But in the big picture, I think what you are seeing is that the US is going thru the birthing pains of the information age. All the people who were used to controlling information are panacking, and the peoples of the world who have been exposed to US cluture via the internet are suffering culture shock all over the planet - causing m
    • Re:Downhill (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nx (194271) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @04:05AM (#13987193)
      I couldn't agree more; the US is going down the drain. However, the European Union is going the exact same way. And much of the world is already down there. Welcome to your Orwellian future.

      The EUCD, the software patent legislation (which might just be happening anyway), the joint effort of ministers Bodstrom of Sweden and Clarke of the UK when it comes destroying civil liberties in Europe, the less-than-perfect freedom of press in Sweden (not to mention the debate about journalists blogging on their own time) - it's a road paved with mostly good intentions to guess where.

      While I'm all for critizing the US for the DMCA and the USA PATRIOT Act, let's not pretend we (swedes/europeans) live in a perfect society.

      In fact, I'd like to argue that it would be easier to turn this development around in the US than in Europe. Due to differing civic cultures, and a much more clear tradition of focusing politics on civil rights and liberties in the US compared to Europe in general, and the social democratic countries in particular.

      (Even though you didn't really claim that Sweden was 'better' in your post, I felt obligated to point out that it isn't. ;)
  • "...yet no case defining the amount of control a school has over a student based on that student's web speech has come before the Supreme Court."

    That is because, in the vast majority of these cases, the schools involved are private, not public, institutions, and thus they are completely free to limit student speech as they see fit.
    • I disagree. They are still citizens of the U. S. and are covered by the First Amendment allowing free speech. One of these will get to the Supreme Court and free speech will win. As long as they are not advocating terrorist acts or making threats against the President they will win. Those two are not free speech but crimes, threats against the President have been a crime for a long time. At best you get "interviewed" by the Secret Service, at worst you spend many years as a guest of the Government in the cr
  • I was looking for an email address for the Fisher College Dean of Students, but was only able to find a snail mail address.

    Dr. Bonie Bagchi Williamson, Vice President
    Co-curricular Life and Dean of Students
    Fisher College
    118 Beacon Street
    Boston, MA 02116

    Actually, I think a written letter letting the Dean see that the scope and "bad press" of her action stretches far beyond Massachusetts would be better than a five emails expressing the same sentiment. I'm not familiar with this situation beyond th

  • Bottom line: Facebook, Pope John XIII, and other online student speech cases are popping up all over the place yet no case defining the amount of control a school has over a student based on that student's web speech has come before the Supreme Court. When will this happen? Moreover, what will be the result when it finally does?"

    Any court, let alone the Supreme Court is unlikely to want to hear such a case. Isn't this is a matter of non government private contracts? When you enroll with the school you ag
    • ... you agree to abide by their rules, no matter how absurd ...

      That's not true. You cannot give away your constitutional rights, no matter what you sign.

  • Everytime censorship is adopted, it's to muffle those who were right...

    People speaking out against the Solviet's, Nazi's, Slavery, Segregation, etc. etc.
  • I know that at my school, also catholic high school, the administration bullied some kid into 'inviting' them to facebook so that they could comb through everybody's profiles. Multiple people were called to the front office, apparently to answer for pictures or written accounts of drinking, sex, and drugs. I can't really say that I'm sorry for them -- there is no such thing as privacy on the internet. At the same time, the administration should find something better to do. I don't take sides so much simply
  • It wasn't just a critique. He posted a suggestion that someone stage getting arrested for the purpose of getting a campus police officer in trouble. Obviously, context is key, but in the absence of any contextual information to the contrary, it sounds like the school's response was appropriate, assuming of course that it was otherwise consistent with their policies.

    Anyone have more context?
  • It's interesting actually. To prove a point, I looked up a random girl I had just met, and within 20 minutes between the school's website and facebook, had her name (off of a face, year, and knowing the first two letters), phone number, dorm (although not room), birthday, email, and about a dozen more pictures of her. Fortunately for her, I'm not interested in stalking her. But a person needs to think through whether they want to have that information available. It can't be hard to get on facebook as a

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