You Be The Judge
Test your knowledge of the Five Freedoms and see how you match up to the courts...and fellow citizens.
Online Student Speech
A Middle School student sent an off-campus Internet message to a friend in which he wrote, “Kill Mr. VanderHolen” and included a picture of a pistol firing bullets at a person’s head. The school found out about the message, and the student was suspended. The student and his family sued, arguing that the message was protected by the First Amendment because it did not constitute a “true threat.”
May a school suspend a student for sending a violent off-campus Internet message?
A. NOThe message, which was not intended to become public, was a casual exchange between friends. It does not quality as a true threat. The school overreacted by suspending the student.
B. YESThe content of the message crosses the boundary of protected speech. It constitutes a form of student conduct that poses a reasonable risk. The school has a duty to take it seriously.
C. YESStudents to not have the right to publicly criticize school officials and policies. Such power for principals is essential to the preservation of order, decorum, and good government in public schools.