Outside of My Domain
Freedom of speech is a quintessential part of the high school experience, and the First Amendment should not be scaled back to fit the needs of a higher power; it should be used to protect the speech of all. Period. It serves as training for later life, teaching teens to be assertive with their beliefs. Otherwise, as adults they will tend to conform, never having learned to express their opinions.
This standard creates the “one vote won’t make a difference” phenomenon. While not the cause, the restriction of this personal freedom could lead to low voter turnout. Free speech is the basis of democracy, and if suppressed, so is the power of that opportunity. If we are silenced, we cannot say that we live in a democracy, because the point of democracy is to provide power to the people. A speechless and opinionless nation is like a herd of sheep: powerless against any wolf that would threaten it. The same concept applies to school situations.
Ironically, school is where we learn both our social possibilities and general facts. If a school does not set a precedent in which students can express themselves freely, it will be hard for those students to exercise their rights of free speech as adults. If people do not express themselves, they have no chance of being represented by their elected officials–you cannot stand for those who express no opinion. This is why freedom of speech, especially in high school, is so important. However, I would like to determine what the best solution is in regard to free speech online.
When should the school have and not have jurisdiction? This issue is multifaceted and complex, and as technology expands and takes up more of our lives, the importance and complexity of the issue continues to grow. Unfortunately, many people’s lives online are different from their real lives.The perception of anonymity gives rise to “trolls,” or people who insult others or promote online vandalism.The feeling of anonymity, however, also allows people to engage in deep conversations with others. Exposing their opinions will not come back to bite them in real life. While not everything posted on social media or other networked communications is true, deep, or reflective, a basic principle should still stand: you have the right to say what you want.
As long as you do not break any laws, or harass or bully, you should be protected by the First Amendment, regardless of your age or locus. First Amendment protection is at its “zenith” off campus, it must also be at its zenith in cyberspace where the First Amendment deserves the highest degree of government protection. (Reno v. ACLU) A balance is needed so that bullying and harassment can be dissuaded while not restricting freedom of speech. The balance could be that the school should have only the ability to report public posts to the authorities and not attempt to intercept or view personal students’ messages.
In this way, public online harassment and bullying could be stemmed without infringing upon students’ freedom of speech or privacy. This would also adhere to the Tinker, Fraser, and Hazelwood court decisions (Tomain) –for two reasons.First, as no captive audience inhabits cyberspace and a school is not reasonably associated with a student’s online speech, it is not under the jurisdiction of the school, as covered by the Hazelwood court case. The second reason is that most anything posted online is considered stateless (Mickey Jett), and therefore off school grounds, and a school cannot censor it, as stated in all three of these decisions and based in our First Amendment rights. But what about private messages? People can be mean to one another, especially in private online.This is the biggest dilemma.
You cannot conduct surveillance on all personal messages and purport to only target bullying or harassment at the same time.If the school were to screen all personal messages, it would violate the Fourth Amendment, the right to privacy.And if school administrators were to assign punishment for a personal message, they would violate the First Amendment. By definition, a private message has no public audience. For these two reasons, we cannot surveil all personal messages.
We cannot sacrifice the rights of all for a few. “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” (Nicola Simpson). However, to counterbalance the risk of online violations of others’ rights, parents and friends should report to the authorities if their child or friend is being bullied.The police could then go through the legal process of obtaining a subpoena and getting the records of the relevant private conversations. On of the most famous lines in the court decision of Tinker vs.
Des Moines Independent Community School District is, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech … at the schoolhouse gate” (Tinker v. Des Moines).
The internet blurs the line that demarcates the schoolhouse gate.Your life online follows you everywhere, regardless of your location, and the school’s area of editorial influence and investigation cannot apply in a fluid locus. Likewise, freedom of speech should be borderless. Word Count: 868 Words | Date: 5/23/16 Works Cited: Hoder, Harriet A. Supervising Cyberspace: A Simple Threshold for Public School Jurisdiction Over Students’ Online Activity. 5th ed.
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N.p.: Chicago-Kent Law Review, 2013. PDF. “Reno v.
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Simpson, Nicola. “Nicola Simpson: They Who Can Give up Essential Liberty to Obtain a Little Temporary Safety, Deserve Neither Liberty nor Safety.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, n.d.
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N.p.: n.p., n.d.