Social Networking : Bullying

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Q: I was a senior in high school.  One night, at home, I created a group on Facebook, entitled, “Ms. S__ P__ is the worst teacher I’ve ever met.” The page included her photograph.  The group’s purpose was for students to voice their dislike of this teacher.  “Here is the place to express your feelings of hatred.”

Soon, three postings appeared supporting this teacher and knocking me for creating the group.  After two days, I removed the posting, but it came to the attention of the principal.  He suspended me from school for three days and forced me to move from my advanced placement classes into mere honors courses.  My Notice of Suspension states that I was suspended for bullying and/or harassment towards a staff member and disruptive behavior.

A: The principal was acting in a discretionary capacity.  His discretionary duties include the administration of discipline.  Suspending a student falls within a principal’s arsenal of powers that he may use to accomplish his goal.  To overcome his privilege, you must show that the principal violated a constitutional right – for you to make this posting on the internet about a teacher.

Your Facebook group does not undermine the fundamental values of a school education.  It falls under the wide umbrella of protected speech.  It was an opinion of a student about a teacher, that was published off-campus, did not cause any disruption on-campus, and was not lewd, vulgar, threatening or in advocacy of illegal or dangerous behavior.  It appears that you were merely exercising an established constitutional right, and so your lawsuit is viable.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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