In his comment to my rant about last week’s Supreme Court decision limiting student speech outside of school, Lee takes me to task for my pessimism about where this ruling is likely to lead.

If it’s OK to ban yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre, isn’t it OK to keep a student from telling their peers… at school… that it is OK to use drugs?

The decision wouldn’t in any way impact a students ability to say the same thing on a MySpace page. It was the location of the banner that was key here.

Actually, it’s that location part that bothers me the most in this decision. The student in question was off school grounds but his banner was within a visible distance.

My fear is that some school administrators will adopt the opinion that a student web site they find objectionable is also visible from the classroom and thus subject to their control.

Elsewhere on that omnipresent web, Andy offers an extensive description of the case and some good analysis of the potential slippery slope created here.

But can student online activities from home be deemed “school-sanctioned”? The irony is that the answer might be yes – for those schools that decide to use social networking sites in the classroom. Many schools, of course, filter out social networks, deeming them uneducational and inappropriate for classroom access. For those students attending schools where social networks are filtered, they could probably argue in an ensuing legal case that their online activities, even if drug-related, can’t be considered school sanctioned, since the school refuses to condone social network access on campus. On the other hand, if a school allows access to certain social networks and a student hypothetically posted drug-related content on his or her personal online profile, the school might argue that using the social network is indeed school-sanctioned and thus open to disciplinary action, even if the content is posted off-campus.

Gary also weighs in with anger and possibly even more pessimism about the effects than I did.

So, now cryptic speech is illegal? That would make the actions of most presidential candidates a crime. Oh yeah, but they don’t go to school. Apparently, you the most fundamental American liberty, the First Amendment need not be afforded to students.

Here is the scariest part of this case. The standard for suspending the most basic of human rights is that a school official determines that the act or message may interfere with the educational mission of the school.

What is the school’s “educational mission.” Why does it deserve special protection?

I certainly agree with Lee and most everyone else that the actions of the student in this case were dumb.

However, are we as educators now to claim responsibility for every stupid thing kids do in the “real world” for thirteen years of their lives?

If that’s the case, not a lot of learning will be accomplished, both because of a lack of time and the increasingly high barrier created by an adversarial relationship with students.

supreme court, student speech