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3rd Circuit School District to File Writ of Cert in Free Speech Case

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 01, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

One Third Circuit Court of Appeals case may be going to the Supreme Court soon. Earlier this month, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on two cases involving off-campus speech by students, namely, their conduct on social media websites.

In both cases, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the students. Now, the lawyers for the Blue Mountain School District have announced plans to file a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, with the current Supreme Court session at an end, the case won’t be heard for a while, even if SCOTUS does agree to take it on.

Several weeks ago, in an 8-6 decision, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of a middle school student who created a fake profile for her school principal on MySpace. She was suspended for ten days by the school and the school was ultimately cited for being in violation of the First Amendment in restricting free speech in schools.

In a similar case within the Third Circuit, another high school student was punished for creating an online profile of his principal as well.

In both Third Circuit cases, the court ultimately ruled in favor of the students. In the later case, however, the decision was unanimous and there has been no word yet regarding Supreme Court appeal.

In a recent Second Circuit case, however, a panel of judges ruled that a student’s First Amendment rights were not violated when she was reprimanded for calling her school administrators “douchebags” online. The student, Avery Doninger, was not allowed to run for student government after her online statements. Her lawyers have indicated that they plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Doninger has until July 25 to file her writ of certiorari and Blue Mountain School District has until September 12.

With a split in the circuits regarding a favorite issue of the Court, free speech, it seems likely the High Court will agree to hear one free speech in schools case.

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