Now they get their attorney involved instead. Remember back in the good old days when students drew caricatures of their teachers and principals on the blackboard or in passed notes? OK, maybe you’re not as old as I am. But every year technology makes it more likely that when you poke fun at authority, authority might poke back.
Four young people in Pennsylvania found that out when their former principal filed suit against them for posting bogus MySpace profiles in which they allegedly claimed that he “liked to have sex with students and brutalize women”, “kept a keg of beer behind his desk at school, was on steroids, and smoked marijuana,” and that his favorite movie was a pornographic film. Each of the profiles was removed after the high school contacted MySpace.
The family of one of the accused is countersuing the principal and the school for their “excessive” response to one of the incidents: suspending the student from school and sending him to an alternate learning program. The parents claim that their son’s free speech rights were thereby violated, as well as their right to determine how best to raise him.
Where do you draw the line between free speech and libel? Should students have the right to make fun of their principal? Does the fact that they impersonated him on the web make the case more serious to you? Should the school system have a right to control and punish student behavior? If so, how far should that extend?