Two Pennsylvania teens cannot be disciplined at school for MySpace parodies of their principals created on home computers, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday in a high-profile case involving students and free speech. The postings, however lewd or offensive, were not likely to cause significant disruptions at school and are therefore protected under prior Supreme Court case law, the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals found.
In one case, an eighth-grade honors student disciplined for two dress code violations created a MySpace page in March 2007 using an actual photo of the principal with a fake name. The site purported to be that of a 40-year-old Alabama school principal who described himself—through a string of sexual vulgarities—as a pedophile and sex addict. The Internet address included the phrase "kids rock my bed." In the other case, a high school senior created a parody in December 2005 that said his principal smoked marijuana and kept beer behind his desk. The school district suspended him, but the suspension was overturned by a district judge, the appeals panel and now the full 3rd Circuit. (Read more American Civil Liberties Union stories.)