Facebook postings are powerful things. We’ve seen them get their authors fired from their jobs, be used in legal proceedings, and, recently, land judges in hot water. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the federal appellate court for Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Virgin Islands, is set to rule in a different type of social-networking legal matter. The plaintiff in the case is a middle-school student in the Blue Mountain School district in Schuykill County, Pennsylvania. She was suspended when she created a fake MySpace profile for her principal, using a fake name but his real photograph, claiming that he was a pedophile and sex addict. The profile was riddled with sexual vulgarities. The student created the profile at home after school.
At issue in the case is whether, and to what extent, the school can discipline students for out-of-school conduct that disrupts or otherwise affects the school and educational process. Federal appellate court judge, D. Michael Fisher, cautioned the school district about the possible impact the case could have if the court were to rule in its favor, saying, “Do we want our school districts to become Internet police?”
The question of how far a school can and should go outside the boundaries of the school yard is paralleled by the debate about employers’ monitoring of employees’ off-duty conduct. How far is too far? And, once you start, do you have a duty to continue to keep tabs of students’ or employees’ online affairs? It’s a question that is far from settled but front and center in this rapidly developing area of the law.
Recent related posts: