Freedom Of Speech Clause Of The First Amendment

Submitted By thexhale
Words: 2208
Pages: 9

Due to years of ambiguity, the First Amendment has become the most scrutinized and analyzed part of the original Bill of Rights. When evaluating the "freedom of speech" clause and the many ways to appraise individual decisions, judgments are often based on previous cases of the same nature, categorically or otherwise. Three distinctly different situations surrounding Jill Smith, all pertain to freedom of speech, each having their own very specific details. These specific details are the reason Judges must walk a fine line between freedom and infringement. Being able to separate individuals’ actions and divide them to correspond with a relevant law, each individual situation needs to be analyzed and judged separately. In these three events we must elaborate on the context and intentions of each posting, usually arduous in nature, but none-the-less important for the fabric of the judicial system.
If evaluating Jill’s first post directed at Mr. Thompson (Post 1) by the prohibitions of the Student Code of Conduct, it is easy to see why Principal Jones punished Jill by relegating her school presidency. Jill tried to use the “freedom of speech” clause of the First Amendment as a blanket for her online speech. Jill’s was clearly in violation of the Code that is designed to help administrative control over the school, and help to regulate students action to provide healthy and safe learning environment. In J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District the Third Circuit Court of Appeals decided that similar online postings that are directed at faculty members in a malicious manner are protected under the First Amendment because they took place off-campus (Blue Mountain at page 17). Recently the Supreme Court over turned the decision of the Third Circuit and rejected more than one ascending opinion, and inferring that the line between off-campus and on-campus speech is fine. A quote from the Supremes Court’s reasons for granting the Writ of Certiorari included an opinion that “the constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings, and that the rights of students must be applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment” (Blue Mountain at page 2). Not only could off-campus language directed at teachers and faculty members damage their careers, it could potentially damage their social and family life. If schools cannot regulate speech that is potentially damaging to their faculty members, then it becomes impossible to protect them. In a dissenting opinion regarding Blue Mountain it was observed that “these forms of online personal attacks by students occur with some degree of frequency.” (Blue Mountain at page 10) I am in the opinion that students should not be allowed to verbally attack teachers or faculty members with a malicious connotation online or otherwise. I would also agree with the Supreme Court concerning J.S’s post. In order to be able to reasonably discipline students, schools must be able to set suitable boundaries. Due to the complexion of the internet, you cannot only depend on the derivation of the speech, therefore even online speech done off-campus should be regulated the same as on-campus speech. Similar to Jill’s case, it also is reasonable to assume her first post directed at Mr. Thompson not only was in violation of her Schools Code of Conduct, but could damage Thompson’s reputation going forward. Like the decision in Doninger v. Niehoff this type of speech "foreseeably create[d] a risk of substantial disruption within the school environment" (Doninger at page 12). Though it might not have been Jill’s intention to do so, I do not believe it is within her right under the “freedom of speech” clause to discredit Mr. Thompson with vulgarity. If students are allowed to constantly scrutinize and character bash faculty members of the school, it becomes impossible for the school to take administrative control of the