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Florida’s governor signs bill expanding school voucher program into law

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has signed a bill into law that significant expands the state’s private school voucher program, reports the Associated Press (AP) in the Pensacola News Journal. The governor’s action came in the face of protests from from parent groups and the state’s teachers union who argue expansion will come at the expense of traditional public schools.

The program currently provides tax credits to businesses that pay for vouchers, which serves nearly 60,000 families, most of whom attend religious schools. The new law, however, will broaden who is eligible to participate, which will help push the cost of the program beyond the current total of nearly $300 million. Although the program is presently limited to low-income families, in 2016, families who earn more than $60,000 a year could receive partial scholarships.

The new law removes a requirement that students attend a public school before becoming eligible for a voucher. The measure also creates “personal learning scholarship accounts” which help parents of disabled children get additional services for their children.

Former governor Jeb Bush’s first voucher program, which offered vouchers to students in failing schools, that sparked a legal battle that resulted in a state Supreme Court ruling declaring the vouchers unconstitutional. That ruling did not apply to the tax credit scholarship program, but Joanne McCall, vice president of the Florida Education Association, said the group now is reviewing whether to challenge it in court. “Instead of investing to make every public school as good as it can be, the Legislature and the governor divert a rapidly growing chunk of taxpayer dollars into these voucher schools and the groups that run them,” McCall said.

Source: Pensacola News Journal, 6/20/14, By Gary Fineout (AP)

[Editor’s Note: In May 2012, Legal Clips summarized a New York Times article that discussed how tuition-tax credit laws were being used as a way to shift public funds to private schools via scholarship programs. The article noted that some states had moved to tighten restrictions after receiving complaints. In Florida, where the scholarships are strictly controlled to make sure they go to poor families, only corporations are eligible for the tax credits, eliminating the chance of parents donating for their own benefit.] 

Georgia district settles lawsuit with former parent volunteer banned from school grounds

The Richmond County Board of Education (RCBOE) has agreed to a settlement in a suit brought by former parent volunteer Tanya Mount, reports The Augusta Chronicle.  Mount was banned from McBean Elementary School’s (NBES) campus and threatened with arrest if she trespassed. The board has agreed to contribute $1,000 toward court fees incurred during the dispute.

Mount’s suit alleged that her constitutional rights were violated by the school district after she was issued a criminal trespass warning in October 2013.  According to the suit,  MBES Principal Janina Dallas banned Mount from campus after Mount posted an image of her newly issued Georgia Weapons Carry License on Facebook. Mount contended that Dallas’ action violated her Second Amendment right to bear arms. 

However, Dallas and Assistant Superintendent Tim Spivey contended that Mount had a history of worrying behavior before she posted the image, such as making “inappropriate comments” and wandering into unauthorized areas instead of performing volunteer duties. They cited such behavior as the reason for the ban.

The school board’s  attorney Pete Fletcher said the suit against the school system had been dismissed, and the case could be settled by contributing $1,000 to court fees. The board voted to affirm the settlement after a short discussion in executive session, offering little comment on the matter afterward.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle, 6/17/14, By Sean Gruber

[Editor’s Note: In November 2013, Legal Clips summarized an article in The Augusta Chronicle detailing Mount’s suit against RCBOE.]

U.S. Supreme Court declines to consider Seventh Circuit ruling that Wisconsin district is violating the Establishment Clause by holding graduations at local Christian Church

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Elmbrook School District’s (ESD) petition for certiorari asking the Court to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit’s decision that ESD’s practice of holding graduation ceremonies at a local Christian church is unconstitutional, reports the Journal Sentinel. The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case leaves the Seventh Circuit’s decision in effect regarding public schools within its jurisdiction, i.e., Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s Associate legal director Alex J. Luchenitser, who argued the case on behalf of students and parents challenging the practice, applauded the Supreme Court’s decision. Luchenitser said, “No student should ever be forced to choose between missing their own graduation and attending that seminal event in a proselytizing environment inundated with religious icons and exhortations.” ESD spokesman Chris Thompson, on the other hand, said the district respected the Court’s ruling and planned to continue holding ceremonies on district property.

However, two of the Supreme Court justices dissented from their colleagues’ decision. Justice Scalia, who was joined by Justice Thomas, filed a dissenting opinion. Scalia argued that the Court should have heard the case based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding prayer before public town meetings in Greece, New York.

Source: Journal Sentinel, 6/16/14, By Ashley Luthern

[Editor’s Note: In his dissent, Justice Scalia argued, based on the Court’s holding in Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway, 12-696, decided earlier in the current term, that at the very least, the Supreme Court should have granted certiorari, vacate the Seventh Circuit’s en banc decision, and remand the case to the Seventh Circuit for reconsideration. Scalia’s assertion was based on two propositions: (1) Greece abandoned the “antiquated” endorsement test relied on by the Seventh Circuit; and (2) Greece explicitly found that the mere fact that some of an audience is offended does not amount to unconstitutional coercion.

In August 2012, Legal Clips summarized the Seventh Circuit’s en banc decision in Doe v. ESD, which held that the school district violated students’ rights under the Establishment Clause when it held graduation ceremonies for two of its high schools at a local Christian church. After analyzing the facts under the test established in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), and the endorsement and coercion tests, the majority concluded that the sheer religiosity of the church ran afoul of the “primary effect” prong of Lemon, in that it created a likelihood that high school students would perceive a link between church and state, conveying a message of religious endorsement. The majority stressed that its ruling was of limited scope, and should not be read as constitutionally condemning any government use of church-owned facilities, nor “as critical of the cases permitting governmental use, in the proper context, of certain church-owned facilities.”]

Federal appellate court rules that Texas district is not liable for injuries sustained by a student while participating in role-playing exercise as part of history class

Yara v. Perryton Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 13-10684 (5th Cir. Mar. 31, 2014)

Abstract:  A U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit three-judge panel, in a per curiam (unauthored) opinion, has ruled that a school district was not liable under § 1983 for injuries a student sustained while participating in role playing exercise as part of studying the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. The panel rejected the student’s Fourth Amendment seizure claim and Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claim. It determined that no school district policymaker had adopted a policy that was a moving force behind the constitutional violations alleged. The panel rejected the student’s argument that the school board, which was the final policymaker, had delegated its authority to the school principal, who had approved the role-playing lesson plan. It also found the school district was not deliberately indifferent to the alleged violations.

In addition, the panel concluded that the school board could not be held liable under § 1983 based on a theory of a supervisor’s failure to train or supervise a subordinate. It found the board could not be held liable based on that theory because there was no evidence that the board knew of the role-playing lesson plan.

Facts/Issues:   Andrew Yara, a student at Perryton High School (PHS), participated in the school’s “Red Ribbon Day” (RRD). RRD was a role-playing exercise created by Yara’s world history teacher, Andy Francis, for the purpose of teaching his class about persecution experienced by Jews in Nazi Germany. On the first day, Francis required half of his students to wear red ribbons; the other half wore red ribbons on the second day. Francis instructed students not wearing red ribbons to discriminate against those who were. Others not enrolled in Francis’s class, including PHS staff, also took part in the activity by giving orders to the red-ribbon wearers. Ribbon wearers were force to do humiliating physical tasks, such as carrying a non-ribbon wearer’s books, or kneel or crawl in the hallways. The ribbon wearers were also ordered to separate restrooms and drinking fountains.

Yara, who was a ribbon wearer, was injured when a non-ribbon wearing student ordered Yara to carry him on Yara’s back to class. A third student jumped on non-ribbon wearer’s back causing all three to fall to the floor. After Yara got to his feet, the student again climbed on Yara’s back to resume the trip, which caused Yara pain in his lower back and legs. He subsequently sought medical attention. The pain in his back and legs has continued and he has suffered from depression related to the incident.

Yara filed suit under § 1983 in federal district court against Perryton Independent School District (PISD). The suit alleged that PISD had violated Yara’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures and excessive force and his Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to bodily integrity. The district court granted PISD’s motion for summary judgment. It did not reach the question of whether Yara had alleged valid constitutional violations because it found he had failed to produce sufficient evidence that had adopted a custom or policy that was the moving force behind the alleged constitutional violations. In addition, the court concluded that there was no § 1983 liability based on the  failure to train theory because the evidence did not show that PISD policymakers were deliberately indifferent to any constitutional violations allegedly arising from lack of staff training or supervision.

Ruling/Rationale: The Fifth Circuit panel affirmed the lower court’s decision. The panel began its brief analysis by pointing out that in order to hold a school district liable under § 1983 a plaintiff cannot rely on the doctrine of respondeat superior, i.e., holding an employer liable for the actions of an employee or agent. It stated that liability can only be established when “the unconstitutional conduct [is] directly attributable to the [school district] through some sort of official action or imprimatur; isolated unconstitutional actions by [district] employees will almost never trigger liability.”

The panel first addressed the question of whether a PISD final policymaker had adopted a policy that was the moving force that caused the alleged constitutional violations. It agreed with the district court’s analysis, which was based on state and local law, that the final policymaker under Texas law was PISD’s school board. It also rejected Yara’s argument that the board had delegated its policymaking authority to PHS’s principal, who had approved the lesson plan. In addition, the panel, like the lower court, concluded that the RRD program, which had been in place for three years, was not “so common and well-settled as to constitute a custom that fairly represents municipal policy.”

Further, the panel, like the district court, concluded that even if knowledge of RRD was imputed to the board, PISD “could not have acted with deliberate indifference to constitutional violations because there is no evidence that the type of constitutional violations alleged by [Yara] had ever occurred.” It pointed out that in the two previous years that RRD had been held no one had suffered physical harm as a result of the exercise. The panel, therefore, found no basis for the assertion that the board, if it had known about RRD, would have been able to reasonably forecast physical injuries similar to those suffered by Yara.

The panel then took up the failure to train or supervise claim. It stated that in order to succeed on that claim a plaintiff must show: “(1) a supervisor failed to supervise or train a subordinate; (2) a causal link exists between the failure and the constitutional violation; and (3) the supervisor was deliberately indifferent.” It emphasized that “[m]ere negligence or even gross negligence” would not suffice to prove such a claim. The panel concluded that Yara’s claim failed on two grounds. First, there was no “evidence that the Board was aware of Red Ribbon Day.” Second, the school board “could not have made a deliberate choice to disregard constitutional violations stemming from its failure to train or supervise because no violation had occurred in the first two years of the program.”

Yara v. Perryton Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 13-10684 (5th Cir. Mar. 31, 2014)

[Editor’s Note: The use of role playing as a teaching tool can also lead to complaints of  racial/ethnic/cultural insensitivity. In September 2013, Legal Clips summarized an article in The Day reporting that the parent of an African-American middle school student had filed a complaint with the Connecticut Department of Education (CDE) after his child was forced to reenact conditions of slavery, such as being sold at auction and picking cotton, while on a field trip.  James Baker, whose daughter attends Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, read her written statement to the school board.   She said:  “I had to hold my head down and could not make contact with the white masters.  I heard the instructor ask kids behind me to open their mouths so their teeth could be checked.  Some were asked to jump up and down.” ]

New York Court of Appeals to rule on law criminalizing cyber-bullying

The New York Court of Appeals is set to consider a challenge to Albany County’s law criminalizing cyber-bullying, reports The Wall Street Journal.  This is one of the first legal challenges to a state or local law that imposes criminal penalties for cyber-bullying.

The Albany County law, one of more than a dozen nationwide, pits free-speech advocates against a community that has given prosecutors a larger role in affairs that typically had been handled by schools.  Four other New York counties and more than a dozen states have similar laws.  The Albany law makes it a crime to communicate “private, personal, false, or sexual information,” intended to “harass, annoy, threaten, abuse, taunt, intimidate, torment, humiliate, or otherwise inflict significant emotional harm on another person.”

Marquan W. Mackey-Meggs, the first person charged under Albany’s law, is appealing his conviction.  While a student at Cohoes High School, he created a Facebook page called “Cohoes Flame page” and posted photos of other students with captions that included graphic and sexual comments, according to court documents.

Mackey-Meggs was arrested after police learned his identity through his IP address, and charged him as an adult with eight counts of violating the Albany cyber-bullying law, as well as eight counts of harassment.  He told police that he intended the pages to be funny.

The trial court judge threw out the harassment charges but not the cyber-bullying counts.  Mackey-Meggs pleaded guilty to a single count of cyber-bullying, on the condition that he could challenge the law’s constitutionality in higher state courts.

In 2013, an Albany County judge ruled that the law was constitutional as applied to speech directed at minors, but not speech directed at adults.  Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said that was the intent all along. “This is about harming children, and that’s what we’re identifying with this law, and I hope it stands in court,” he said.  At least four other teenagers have been charged under the law since the case involving Mackey-Meggs.

Legal briefs submitted on Mackey-Meggs’ behalf argue that the Albany law “goes beyond the narrow categories of unprotected speech that the government may regulate” and includes terms such as “annoy” and “abuse” that are too vague.  The legal brief submitted by Albany County prosecutors Thomas Marcelle and Patrick J. Collins, on the other hand, argues: “The government has the authority to punish those who act with the intent to emotionally harm children.”

Recently a Louisiana teen was charged under that state’s cyber-bullying law with making threats via text message to two students.  The case is pending.  In March, a  North Carolina high school student, who was charged with cyber-bullying for allegedly posting a nude photo of a 15-year-old on Instagram, pleaded guilty and was given probation.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, 6/4/14, By Joe Palazzolo

[Editor’s Note: In December 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article from the Student Press Law Center reporting that the Vernon County board of supervisors has approved an ordinance that states: “[A]nyone who uses any electronic device ‘to annoy, offend, demean, ridicule, degrade, belittle, disparage or humiliate’ can face up to $500 in fines and up to 30 days in the county jail if the fine is not paid.”  Although the law does not specifically target students, Vernon County Sheriff John Spears believes that group will be the most affected by the law.]

California school board unanimously approves resolution critical of OCR’s investigative methods

According to the Palo Alto WeeklyPalo Alto school board members have signaled unanimous support for a resolution that calls on the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to correct errors in its investigation processes, which the school board believes are “purposely confrontational and disruptive.”  Board members reiterated complaints that OCR lawyers had failed to address contested facts, burdened the district with massive information requests, and had not completed investigations in a timely fashion.  The board will have a final vote on June 17. 

Board members insist that their sincere efforts to work collaboratively with OCR have led nowhere and that, by going public with their complaints about the OCR process, they hope to help other school districts and universities experiencing the same frustrations.  “We absolutely share the same goals as the OCR,” board member Dana Tom said.  “The issue we’re talking about tonight is over OCR’s practices and ensuring they are efficient, effective and fair.  Like any organization, OCR has areas where it can and should improve.” Because of confidentiality restrictions, the district has been unable to correct “incomplete, misleading, and inaccurate” media accounts generated by OCR investigations, Tom said.

However, some parents have criticized the board’s strategy of challenging the OCR.  Ken Dauber, a likely candidate for school board in this November’s election, said the board’s failure to publicly examine why its practices had drawn OCR scrutiny in the first place amounted to “a great missed opportunity on the part of the district.”

Source: Palo Alto Weekly, 6/4/14, By Chris Kenrick

[Editor’s Note: Among the issues raised in the Palo Alto school board’s two page resolution:

OCR has denied multiple formal District requests for records of evidence in the disputed case which has further restricted the District’s opportunity for a fair review;

The OCR has not responded to the District’s appeals of OCR’s denial of requests for records despite OCR’s legal obligation to make a determination on the appeals by September 13, 2013; and

A faulty negative determination by OCR in the disputed case continues to generate public confusion and damage to the reputations of conscientious educators;

In the letter from school board president Barb Mitchell, President, board vice president Melissa Baten Caswell, and superintendent Kevin Skelly to board members explaining the purpose of the resolution, it states:

We are not alone in our concerns regarding OCR investigation practices. The National School Boards Association advocates legislation in Congress (H.R. 1386) to support local school board governance and flexibility and states: “The expansion of federal intrusion on public education in recent years has impacted local policy-making in ways that impose unnecessary rules, conditions, and restrictions, as well as significant costs, on local school
governance.”

On June 10, 2014, NSBA issued a press release announcing that Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) had introduced the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (S. 2451).  The Senate bill is a companion bill to H.R. 1386 introduced last year in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has 43 bipartisan sponsors and co-sponsors.  The House’s version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization, H.R. 5, approved by the full House last summer, also includes key provisions of H.R. 1386. 

The Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act would:

  • Establish local school boards’ authority and curb overreach by ED on issues that impact local school districts unless specifically authorized in federal legislation;
  • Ensure that local school board concerns and issues are solicited and addressed in the process of creating new federal regulations;
  • Create procedural steps that ED would be required to take prior to initiating any regulations, rules, grant requirements, guidance documents, and other regulatory materials; and
  • Ensure that ED’s actions are consistent with the specific intent of federal law and are supportable at the local level.]

Judicial panel rules Kansas’ new school funding law meets state supreme court mandate that state increase funding to poor districts

According to an Associated Press (AP) report in The Kansas City Star, a Shawnee County District Court three-judge panel assigned to review the state’s latest school funding scheme has determined the law complies with a state Supreme Court mandate to boost aid to poor public schools. However, the panel declined the state’s request to dismiss claims questioning the fairness of the state’s school funding formula in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by parents and school districts.

The panel also rejected the school districts’ argument that uncertainty about state finances or future legislative actions raises questions about whether Kansas actually met the earlier Supreme Court mandate. In March 2014, the state supreme court concluded that recession-driven cuts in aid to poor school districts had created unconstitutional gaps in aid between them and wealthier districts and ordered lawmakers to fix that.

At that time, the supreme court returned the case to the panel, which had reviewed it previously, with orders to examine the legislature’s response and consider other issues.  The legislature approved the new education law in April 2014, increasing aid to poor school districts by $129 million during the next school year. But it also attached policy provisions, including ones ending guaranteed teacher tenure and another granting tax credits to corporations bankrolling private-school scholarships for at-risk children.

Both sides in the lawsuit agreed that the additional aid to poor districts met the Supreme Court’s mandate. Attorney Alan Rupe, who represents the school districts, argued to the panel that legislators have a history of failing to meet promises to public schools and noted that backtracking on funding commitments, made to resolve an earlier school finance lawsuit, led to the current litigation.

Rupe also pointed out that the Kansas National Education Association is promising to file a separate lawsuit challenging policies in the new law. However, the panel found that even if someone challenged policies included in the law, the new funding would stand.

Source: The Kansas City Star, 6/11/14, By AP

[Editor’s Note: In June 2014, Legal Clips summarized an article in The Wichita Eagle reporting that the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) plans to mount a legal challenge to statutory provisions that eliminate teacher employment protections, says The Wichita Eagle.   The provisions were added to a funding bill that revised the state’s school funding program.  Although the law appears to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court’s mandate to provide increased funding for public schools, it also eliminates mandatory hearings before a public school teacher’s contract can be terminated.]

Oregon district settles student’s lawsuit over high school dance team’s social media policy

KATU.com reports that Scappoose School District (SSD) has settled a federal lawsuit brought by the Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-OR) on behalf of  Scappoose High School student, Marissa Harper, who was excluded from the dance team when she refused to sign a social media agreement  requiring posts to be screened and approved by the team. SSD Superintendent Stephen Jupe professed that he was unaware of the policy until receiving notification of the suit.

SSD believes the policy was a well-intentioned, but misguided,  effort to reduce derogatory social media posts about the dance team, especially those of a bullying nature. SSD has agreed to jettison the policy. It also has agreed to pay ACLU-OR $25,000 in legal fees. “It basically says yeah, we made a mistake, and the mistake was unconstitutional,” Jupe said.

Source: KATU.com, 6/18/14, BY Bob Heye

[Editor’s Note: ACLU-OR’s press release announcing the settlement agreement  states:

Under the terms of the settlement, the district agreed that its social media policy had violated the free speech rights of students and their parents. In response to the ACLU’s lawsuit, the school district withdrew the policy in January and worked with the ACLU to finalize an appropriate settlement that included a written apology sent in a recent newsletter to the school community.

In January 2014, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Oregonian reporting on the filing of the suit. The suit sought to permanently enjoin the school district’s newly adopted “sportsmanship and social media” policy. The editor’s note to the summary contains a link to the legal complaint.]

Four Virginia high school students are under police investigation for taking “upskirt” photos of female teachers

Four students at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia are under criminal investigation for allegedly taking inappropriate photos of their teachers, reports the Washington Post. The Alexandria Police Department has executed search warrants to  determine if the students took “upskirt” photos of two female teachers last month.

According to affidavits, one student told police that when he walked into his second-period class May 15, several students started encouraging him — chanting, “Photo, photo, photo” — to take a picture of the teacher. He used his phone to take a picture of her from behind. He also received a photo on his phone that had been taken up the teacher’s skirt, he said. A second student told police that during the same class, he held his phone under the teacher’s skirt and took a video.

The student claims the video did not come out and he deleted it immediately. He said he handed his phone to a third student who took two photos up the teacher’s skirt. A witness recalled seeing the third student take an upskirt photo and being urged by him to do the same. The witness reported the incident to Dean Rene Cadogan. A fourth student admitted to taking a picture up the dress of another female teacher three days earlier, according to an affidavit. A female witness reported that incident to the dean.

A student, who is 18, has been charged with misdemeanor  unlawful photographing of a non-consenting person. Upskirt photos were explicitly outlawed by Virginia legislators in 2005. Alexandria school system spokeswoman Kelly Alexander said, “We will take any necessary disciplinary actions and do all we can to protect our teachers and students in the classroom.”

Source: Washington Post, 6/17/14, By Rachel Weiner

[Editor’s Note: In August 2010, Legal Clips summarized a story from  KOMO News reporting that Oak Harbor School District (OHSD) had proposed a policy that would allow school officials to search students’ cell phones. OHSD believes the policy is necessary in order for the district to comply with recent state legislation requiring school districts to toughen up on cyber bullying and sexting. The policy would allow school administrators to review anything in a student’s cell phone, including text messages, pictures, and videos. While school officials see it as a proactive approach to keep students safe,  some parents and students oppose the policy on the grounds it is an invasion of privacy and an intrusion on parental prerogative to discipline their own child.] 

Former student sues Minnesota district and local police chief after “sarcastic” tweet leads to seven-week suspension

Former Rogers High School (RHS) student, Reid Sagehorn,  has filed a federal lawsuit against Elk River School District (ERSD), Superintendent Mark Bezek and Rogers Police Chief Jeff Beahen, says the Star Tribune, charging his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated. Sagehorn sent a two-word tweet that led to a seven-week suspension. In response to an online suggestion that he had “made out” with a female teacher, he responded with the tweet “Actually, yeah.”

The suit acknowledges that there was no relationship and contends the comment was meant sarcastically. It states the “… posting was meant to be taken in jest.” The suit also claims his comment “… was a mistake … He never intended for anyone to believe his post.”

According to the suit, Sagehorn was initially suspended for five days. Attached to the suspension notice was an offense titled “threatening, intimidating, or assault of a teacher, administrator or other staff member.” However, the suspension was amended to 10 days, and in February 2014,  Sagehorn was handed a nearly two-month suspension.

The suit charges Sagehorn’s conduct “was not a true threat” of physical violence. Police Chief Beahen began an investigation of the incident in January 2014, and stated in February 2014 that Sagehorn could be facing criminal charges. Shortly thereafter, the Hennepin County attorney’s office said there would be no charges. Beahen admitted he erred when he said a felony charge was possible. At that time, Sagehorn publicly apologized for the tweet and announced he was withdrawing from RHS and enrolling at a private school.

Superintendent Mark Bezek, commenting on the tweet that went viral, said, “This has never happened before.”  He added,  “Are the rules that we have today appropriate for the game? My understanding is the school knew nothing about this confessions page. I didn’t know we had this confessions page.”

Bezek also observed: “Technical changes are happening so fast that it’s impossible to keep up. Kids are living in a world without consequences and boundaries.”

Source: Star Tribune, 6/17/14, By Paul Levy

[Editor’s Note: In July 2013, Legal Clips summarized a decision by a Nevada federal district court in Rosario v. Clark Cnty. Sch. Dist. denying the school district’s motion to dismiss the former student’s First Amendment free speech claims in regard to being disciplined  for off-campus tweets. The court acknowledged that while courts have found that school officials can discipline students for off-campus speech on social media websites, the ability of officials to impose punishment depends on the facts.  It also noted that the scope of the school district’s cyberbullying policy, which formed the basis for the student’s discipline, had not been interpreted under circumstances like those in the present case.  As a result, it concluded that the issue should be decided on the merits.  The court did agree that one of eight tweets was obscene as a matter of law and therefore not entitled to First Amendment protection.]

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