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Facebook Gripes Protected By Free Speech, Ruling Says

Publication Date: 
February 16, 2010
Source: 
CNN Tech
Author: 
Rich Phillips

Ryan Calo, a residential fellow at the Center for Internet & Society, is quoted on a student's constitutional right to criticize her teacher on Facebook. Rich Phillips of CNN reports:

A former Florida high school student who was suspended by her principal after she set up a Facebook page to criticize her teacher is protected constitutionally under the First Amendment, a federal magistrate ruled.

U.S. Magistrate Barry Garber's ruling, in a case viewed as important by Internet watchers, denied the principal's motion to dismiss the case and allows a lawsuit by the student to move forward.

"We have constitutional values that will always need to be redefined due to changes in technology and society," said Ryan Calo, an attorney with Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society.

"The fact that students communicate on a semi-public platform creates new constitutional issues and the courts are sorting them out," Calo said.

...

"It reassures Internet users and students that they can still speak their mind," Calo said. "Its not a security issue. Its personal opinion and gossip."

Calo believes high-profile campus shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech have made schools more security conscious. But in this case, the principal went too far, he said.

"I think this is just an example of an overreaction on the part of an administrator to speech outside the classroom," he said.

"It used to be that principals wouldn't hear you talking about teachers outside the class. Social networks give principals the ability to see what students are saying about teachers and each other.

"It's one thing to use that information to identify illegal or dangerous conduct. It's quite another to punish opinion and speech outside the classroom that doesn't disrupt the activities of the classroom," he told CNN.