Their Stories: Offline Off-Campus Speech

Their Stories: Offline Off-Campus Speech

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9519-1.ch011
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Abstract

This chapter examines the stories of students who have been censored by their schools for exercising their right to free speech off-campus in an offline forum. It discusses offline off-campus student speech in three categories: (a) speech directed at or against school officials or the school; (b) speech directed at or against students; and (c) speech directed at or against persons who are unaffiliated with the school. The chapter per the authors examines the court decisions regarding students' First Amendment rights to free speech under each of these categories. The goal of the chapter is to analyze the various lower court decisions governing the right of students to speak off-campus when they are not using online media. This chapter will highlight the unsettled nature of students' right to free speech in an off-campus offline setting.
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Main Focus Of The Chapter

Over the years, various lower courts have tried to apply the four United States Supreme Court precedents – Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser (1986), Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988) and Morse v. Frederick (2007) – to off-campus student speech cases. Since these Supreme Court cases were decided in the context of on-campus student speech, the lower courts have struggled to determine if and how these precedents govern students’ offline off-campus speech. Some courts have also chosen to apply the true-threat doctrine to off-campus offline speech, even though the Supreme Court has never applied the doctrine to student speech. The burgeoning uncertainty in the off-campus offline student-speech jurisprudence thus makes it difficult for students to know the scope of their free speech rights.

In this chapter, we set forth the various court decisions regarding the scope of students’ speech rights. We tell the story of students who schools censored for speaking offline in off-campus settings. The chapter includes student-speech cases that occurred before the first Supreme Court student-speech decision – Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969). Additionally, we examine cases since 1969 that have applied the Supreme Court precedents. Our discussion is divided into three categories of students’ offline off-campus speech:

  • 1.

    Speech directed at or against school officials or the school;

  • 2.

    Speech directed at or against students; and

  • 3.

    Speech directed at or against persons who are unaffiliated with the school.

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