student rant = protected speech?

Alas, my dabbling with blogging took a bit of a nosedive lately. As things get busy with the day job something has to give, and as between playing a little bit with the boy and writing another entry in the blog, the boy always wins.

Anyway, to kick off a backlog of a zillion entries, E-Commerce News reports on a finding by the Indiana Court of Appeals:

The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that a student’s obscenity-filled MySpace post blasting a school principal is protected free speech. The student, who is identified as “A.B.” in court documents, was originally placed on probation by a lower court judge in Indiana after she commented about her body piercings and school policy on a MySpace page created by another student.

“While we have little regard for A.B.’s use of vulgar epithets, we conclude that her overall message constitutes political speech,” the Indiana Court of Appeals notes in its opinion on the case.

The key finding in this particular case is that A.B. was speaking out against her principal and his policies rather than causing actual harm.

This is rather interesting given that there have been one or two cases in Canada where students have been suspended for commenting negatively on their teachers. From what I recall, the stories characterized the activities or comments as “cyber-bullying”. In fact I believe The Toronto Star reported riot policing intervening at a protest by students over the suspension of one student for just this type of activity.

It will be interesting to see whether cases like this one will work their way up to Canada, and whether students, given the somewhat less litigious environment in Canada, will proceed with legal challenges of a similar nature.