First Amendment

Students Disciplined for Fake MySpace Profiles of Principals Get 3rd Circuit Rehearing

  • Print.

Students who were disciplined for creating fake MySpace profiles that portrayed their principals as a heavy drinker in one case and a sex addict in the other will get a rehearing on their First Amendment claims before an en banc federal appeals court.

The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to rehear the cases on Friday, according to Education Week’s School Law blog.

Similar cases are playing out across the country, the ABA Journal reported last July when the two cases were pending before 3rd Circuit panels. Students who once might have lampooned their principals in handwritten notes or underground newspapers are now using websites such as Facebook and MySpace to broadcast their opinions, the story says.

The Education Week story summarized the earlier 3rd Circuit rulings in the cases, both issued on Feb. 4. In Layshock v. Hermitage School District, a 3rd Circuit panel ruled that a student’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was disciplined for creating the MySpace page. The fake profile said the school principal had an interest in “big” things, including smoking a “big blunt,” stealing a “big keg” and being a “big steroid freak.” The student, high school senior Justin Layshock, was suspended for 10 days for harassing an administrator, using obscene language and posting the principal’s school photo without permission, according to the ABA Journal.

In the other case, J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, another 3rd Circuit panel ruled that a school could discipline a student who created a MySpace page depicting the principal as a sex addict and a pedophile. The page said the principal had interests such as “spending time with my child” and “hitting on students and their parents.” The student, a 14-year-old girl, was suspended, the ABA Journal says.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.