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Delinquent Speech

An appeals court in Indiana has upheld the right of a middle school student to post an “expletive-laden entry” criticizing the principal on a MySpace page.

In February 2006, Greencastle Middle School Principal Shawn Gobert discovered a Web page on MySpace purportedly created by him. A.B. [the student], who did not create the page, made derogatory postings on it concerning the school’s policy on body piercings.

The state filed a delinquency petition in March alleging that A.B.’s acts would have been harassment, identity deception and identity theft if committed by an adult. The juvenile court dropped most of the charges but in June found A.B. to be a delinquent child and placed her on nine months of probation. The judge ruled the comments were obscene.

The girl’s lawyer argued that her comments were constitutionally protected political speech because she was discussing school policy.

I wonder if he also explained how her communications skills are going to be viewed in five or so years.

So, the school and the juvenile court has done a great job of teaching this student about her First Amendment rights.

They obviously haven’t done nearly as well with helping her understand how to responsibly publish online.

first amendment, myspace, court ruling

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1 Comment

  1. I’d say it’s a sad day when we allow kids to hide what is obviously something that should be dealt with in some way. It may be Free Speech but it shouldn’t be heard – maybe MySpace should be held responsible in some way? I don’t understand why it is so easy to say derogatory things about someone but so hard to stop them from being published. Seems backwards to me! She should be able to criticize the policy but any mention or hint of going after any person should be grounds for deleting the comment.

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