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Parent or school has authority on student blog off school ground?

Somerville, NJ |

I daughter wrote a blog with negative comments about school personal and students without mentioning any real name. She set the blog unsearchable but somehow the URL leaked out and a student reported her. The blog is mainly to convey her emotion but not mean to cyber bullying. School official called her to principle office and questioned her. They decided it's a serious threat and give her 5 day suspension because the blog contains "killing". I was called to school and asked to bring her to hospital for emergency psychiatric screening. I over heard one of the doctor said school over reacted and the screen result in no imminent threat. Does school has authority to suspend her when her actual intension is to channel her emotion but not to threaten anyone?

She put a note after the "KILL" word that it's joking.

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Attorney answers 4

Best Answer

I would agree with Ms. McCall. In today's world, students need to understand that school districts would rather be seen as over reacting then underreacting to any alleged threat.

With regard to the free speech issue the U.S. Supreme Court has balanced in favor of schools their need to regulate activities and statements made which affect the school environment. That means communications outside of school which affects other students or educators may become the subject of disciplinary enforcement.

Generally any suspension under 10 days will be considered a temporary change in placement which might change that balance in favor of the student. If this suspension is not likely to cause some permanent harm to your daughter, then it is not likely worth the coast of litigating the matter.

On the other hand, if your daughter has a disability where her actions could be classified as manifestations of her disability, then such classification would significantly change the character of her actions and the District's response. They would have to be more closely reviewed in light of the student's disability to see if the District's response was a legal violation of some sort.



Thank you for the answer. It answered me where the balance between First Amendment and the scope of school authority today.


school has authority to suspend

After Newtown and Columbine and West Virginia and Northern Illinois your "joke" approach is ridiculous


You could spend a few years litigating this, but with no certainty of success and little to gain. It's a post-Sandy Hook world and students need to think on that. All over the country, school tolerance for this kind of marginal conduct and statements has dipped way below zero and, frankly, on these issues, they don't worry about getting sued.

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I would suggest you have a conversation with your daughter about what is appropriate and appropriate forums for "channeling emotions". A student blog (or perhaps any blog) is not an appropriate forum to use words that can be viewed as threatening a school or its personnel. It is no laughing matter. In today's world, it is like joking about bombs going through security at an airport. It is NOT funny and is taken very seriously. Perhaps your daughter can channel her emotions in an old fashioned way - by TALKING to her friends or you or a therapist, rather than writing it in on a blog.

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