and still you wonder at it all …

February 1, 2007

crossing the boundary between school and home

Filed under: Uncategorized — by moonshot @ 12:30 am

Having decided to tackle the topic of students’ right to free speech, I began to scan headlines for likely articles. I had some trouble at first, but Omegaword came through for me. Granted, this is an older blog, but still Why Johnny Won His Case is extremely relevant. Omegaword addresses the issue of:

“How far school administrators can extend their sphere of influence before running afoul of constitutional law.”

Apparently, school administrators have mistakenly been trying to censure students’ writing outside of school or school activities, especially on the internet and through email. However, Omegaword points out that, according to the Student Press Law Center’s Student Media Guide to Internet Law,

“Students, like all citizens, have strong First Amendment protection when it comes to expressing themselves off-campus. Public school officials cannot legally censor or punish a student for posting a personal homepage or weblog, publishing a Web-based “zine” or using a personal account to send e-mail outside of school from a home computer, even if the subject matter of the site is school-related or offensive. However, if the student accesses the Web site at school or urges others to do so, that activity could be treated no differently than any on-campus distribution of an independent publication.”

I am very glad that Omegaword included this quote, for it brings all kinds of questions and possibilities to my mind. For instance, apparently students cannot be punished for writing whatever they choose – be it vulgar or subversive or anything else – when they write/publish it on their own time on their own equipment. Hmm. What if other students access this writing on school grounds? Are they in trouble for reading it? Is the author in trouble, if they did not encourage the reading? And, for that matter, why is it wrong for a student to encourage classmates to read his or her work if they are in school?

One problem I had with Omegaword’s blog is that he/she did not provide any real life examples of school administration censorship. I guess I will just have to deal in “supposes”. I agree that students should not disrupt the learning environment of a school at the cost of their freedom of speech – to a certain point. Vulgarities and ignorant hate are not appropriate, but if a student, if Bob feels that his U.S. History teacher is not doing his job well … if Bob cares enough to write about it in his blog … how would it be wrong for Bob to show his blog to his friends in the school library during lunch?

The internet has opened up all sorts of possibilities for communication and expression. I think that it is wonderful that students’ First Amendment rights are protected as they are, because they (especially high school students) are preparing to enter the real world, and part of their education is forming opinions and learning how to express them in a constructive manner. I would think writing would be encouraged as a way to vent emotions. Not all emotions need to be broadcasted, but high schoolers should feel that they can share their thoughts and that they can make a difference. They are citizens of the U.S. and I’m glad the government is giving them the chance to exercise their rights outside of school censure (though I do think that it is slightly limited).

“Why Johnny Won His Case” Omegaword. November 4, 2006. Read full article.



  1. The issue of free speech is an issue which needs to be given to students in schools. Agreed. However, I do see in the midst of the wonderful opportunities that the Internet has given us, a power which could be harmful if used improperly.

    Sure, students have the right to free speech. If they want to start a blog to post their frustrations about a teacher, they are legally allowed to do so. As far as using a public school’s computer and internet source to do so is a bit sketchy to me.

    I guess what I am trying to get at is that students do have a right to free speech. BUT…they also need to be taught consequences. They need to see the internet as a public arena, where their comments can have a global audience. They need to see that the words they choose can be powerful, and that the positive aspects of what they say can far outlast the negative.

    It all goes into reponsibility and accountability. In closing this horribly erractic comment, (for that I apologize), I just think that students need taught how to properly get their thought and feelings out on the interweb, and the appropriate accountability for those words. Essentially, they need to be taught the responsibility that they have in owning free speech. Then, hopefully, the internet could be a tool for sharing and expressing new innovations and ideas, instead of a grounds for letting out vindictive frustrations about teachers.

    Comment by eternaltreasure — February 1, 2007 @ 11:05 pm |Reply

  2. Good article! Re. real life examples, I think there were a few in the post prior to Why Johnny Won His Case, i.e. Balancing Free Expression (

    Comment by Jeff — February 6, 2007 @ 1:58 am |Reply

  3. […] Comment 1 […]

    Pingback by On commenting... « accidental songs… — April 17, 2007 @ 10:35 am |Reply

  4. Just wanted to say hellow

    Comment by Melissa — July 30, 2008 @ 9:15 am |Reply

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