A Facebook page called “Ms. Sarah Phelps is the worst teacher I’ve ever met!,” was free speech, a federal court ruled last week. Katherine Evans, now a 20-year-old journalism student, was suspended two years ago for “cyberbullying” her English teacher, reports Wired.
“It was an opinion of a student about a teacher, that was published off-campus, did not cause any disruption on-campus, and was not lewd, vulgar, threatening, or advocating illegal or dangerous behavior,” Magistrate Barry Garber of Florida ruled Friday.
The group featured a photograph of the teacher and an invitation for other students to “express your feelings of hatred.” Evans took it down after a few days.
Recently, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals split on two student free speech cases, Wired notes. Both involved students who created fake MySpace profiles of their principal.
The court ruled in favor of a Pennsylvania high school boy who claimed the principal took drugs and kept beer in his desk. The court ruled the profile, created off campus, did not disrupt the school.
But the same court ruled against a Pennsylvania junior high girl who suggested the principal was a sex addict and pedophile. The court said that was disruptive.
It’s a fine line — or no line at all.