Elon Law professor Scott Gaylord evaluates free speech Facebook ruling with WFMY News 2 and Fox 8 News
Commenting on a U.S. magistrate decision that a high school student who posted critical comments about her teacher on Facebook is protected under the First Amendment, Elon Law professor Scott Gaylord explained in news interviews that schools were working to find a balance between protecting free speech and preventing speech that is threatening or inciting dangerous behavior.
In an interview with WFMY News 2, Gaylord cited instances where web postings had preceded violent events at schools.
"With concerns over things like the shootings at Columbine, or Virginia Tech, with cyber-bullying cases where in the last few years at least two children have committed suicide after different postings, it's a really important area for schools to determine, 'where can we restrict,'" Gaylord said.
In an interview with WGHP Fox 8 Morning News, Gaylord explained the U.S. magistrate's decision in the case in more detail.
"In the Florida case, the court just said that the student who created a Facebook account outside of school, using her own private computer, and then posted comments that were not favorable, shall we say, about the teacher, has an interest that is protected by the First Amendment," Gaylord said. "So in that situation the government is acting … as an educator and it can impose certain speech restrictions, but those speech restrictions have to be related to the operations of the school, and the courts indicated that the comments on the Facebook page don't interfere with those operations."
Commenting on another recent school action related to free speech and Facebook, where a Wake County teacher was suspended for comments she made on her Facebook page about her students, Gaylord told Fox 8 that the Wake County schools system had greater ability to restrict the speech of employees within the context of employment law.
"The school does have the ability to limit its employees speech in certain ways and normally the government may not be able to pass a law that tells all of us that we can't say anything bad about somebody else, but when the government is serving as an employer, it may be able to tell its employees that you can't say anything bad about other employees, or about customers, or students because that may reflect badly on the business," Gaylord said.
Click on the E-Cast links to the right of this article to watch the news segments detailed above.