Discipline for Online Bullying and Harassment (K-12)

The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear two cases from the Third Circuit where the appeals court had refused to uphold school disciplinary action against students who, while away from school, had made fake and offensive MySpace profiles for their site principals. , The Court also declined to hear a case from the Fourth Circuit where the appeals court upheld school discipline for a student whose MySpace page encouraged offensive comments to be directed at a fellow student. By letting these cases stand, the Supreme Court is not forbidding schools from disciplining students for creating electronic messages from home or away from school that are obscene or insulting to staff or peers. It is, however, making it clear that “substantial disruption at school” remains the standard for any attempts to discipline for student speech whether the speech originates at school or away from school and whether it takes “in person” or electronic form. Thus, unless there is “substantial disruption at school”, the district cannot discipline students when they engage in this kind of behavior.