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Should Tweet About Principal Get NJ Student in Hot Water? [POLL]

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

You probably heard the story by now.

A student at Sterling High School has been reprimanded for tweeting some nasty comments about her principal – all leading to her being banned from attending her prom, walking with her graduation class, and generally barring her from any school sponsored activity
The tweet was sent outside of school, and came to light after officials at the school check her twitter feed.

Enter the family’s lawyer, who contends that the child’s free speech was infringed upon, and adds that the student is being discriminated against because of a disability which leads to behavioral issues.

According to this story from the Courier Post:

“American citizens like H.W. (the student) do not shed their constitutional rights of free speech, nor their right to be free of illegal discrimination, merely because they attend school,” the suit asserts.

The suit seeks a preliminary injunction that would allow H.W. to participate in the prom and other activities, noted Jerry Tanenbaum, a Cherry Hill attorney for the girl and her mother.

“It’s an important social issue,” he said. “We’re talking about government officials being able to impose consequences on people for the things they say. … From my perspective, they’re acting as much like teenagers as she is.”

Named in the lawsuit are the principal of the school and the superintendent of the district. The lawsuit is asking that a judge intervene, reinstating her privilege to attend school activities, and set up a policy whereby administrators have no authority to regulate off-campus non-school speech that does not interfere with school activities.

Here’s the problem.

It’s off campus, but online. While she may have a limited number of twitter followers, she has the potential to reach many many more – and may have with a simple hash tag – allowing countless interested parties to view what she said.

And that, my friend, is what leads to a “disruption!”

Not to mention, opening up the possibility of slander.

Ordinarily I’d say that had she said whatever she did about the principal among a group of friends – it’s treated as hearsay. It’s not in writing and easily denied.

Once it’s on the internet and in writing, it’s there for all to see.

Case closed: she loses, another lawyer(s) gets paid; and a district is that much the poorer for having to defend itself from a needless lawsuit.

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