Today the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board agreed that a Facebook site posted by a middle schooler is protected speech, and cleared the record of the student who was suspended for two days from Glasgow Middle School. The student, a seventh-grader, posted a site called "I Hate" and the name of one of his teachers. When the site was brought to the attention of the school's Principal, the student was suspended for two days. The ACLU represented the student at an administrative hearing held today, resulting in the School Board reversing the suspension and has removing it from the student's record.
"Students have the full legal right to criticize their teachers," said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "They have done so throughout the ages. The fact that this student used a computer to state his grievances in no way diminishes his First Amendment right to speak his mind. In clearing this student's record, the School Board has honored this country's First Amendment and has sent the right message to all of its students: you have the legal right to express your opinions."
For decades, it has been clear that students have the full protection of the First Amendment outside of school. This Facebook site was created at the student's home on his family's computer and did not intrude on the school in any way. "No school has the right to extend its reach to activities that are legal and conducted off campus," continued Esman. "Students, like anyone else, should be encouraged to speak their minds. The School Board should be commended for recognizing this fundamental principle."
The student served his two-day suspension on November 4-5, 2010. Today that suspension has been removed from his record. The student was represented by Katie Schwartzmann, ACLU of Louisiana Legal Director.
A copy of the ACLU's letter to the school board hearing officer is available here.
A copy of the hearing officer's letter to the student's mother is available here.