EFF And ACLU Explain To Tennessee School Board That Its New Internet Policy Violates Both The 1st & 4th Amendments

from the a-twofer dept

We've seen over and over again recently that schools seem to have a bizarre notion of how the First Amendment works with things like "free speech zones" and the like. There are all sorts of policies popping up that try to ban free speech. In perhaps the most famous court case concerning free speech in schools, Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court noted, importantly, that students do not shed their constitutional rights just because they've entered a school building. More recently, the courts have (tragically) chipped away at that ruling, but the core of it still stands. And schools still don't seem to realize that it's true. Instead, they seem to want, increasingly, to regulate speech of students in completely unconstitutional ways.

Over in Tennessee, the EFF and the ACLU have teamed up to challenge a new school board policy from the Williamson County Board of Education, which is something of a twofer: not only does it violate the First Amendment, but the Fourth Amendment as well. The policy is the school's "Acceptable Use, Media Release, and Internet Safety Procedures and Guidelines" that effectively bar students from ever saying anything the school deems "inappropriate" or "unauthorized" on any computer equipment that they bring to school (even if the speech is done off-campus) and also make all of the students subject to searches of their devices and monitoring of what they do online. Here's the short summary from the letter (which is quite detailed and runs 10 pages long):
Of particular concern are (i) the social media guidelines applicable to students when engaged in off-campus speech; (ii) the "Bring Your Own Technology" guidelines, pursuant to which students are required to consent to suspicionless searches of their electronic devices "at any time" for any "school- related purpose"; and (iii) the network security and email guidelines, pursuant to which all data and communications of network users are subject to suspicionless monitoring.

While the Policy may be the product of a well-intentioned effort to ensure student safety and network security, and to ensure that classrooms are not disrupted, the Policy goes too far and, as written, violates students' constitutional rights. It (a) functions as a prior restraint on speech, allowing school officials to censor student speech in and out of school, and (b) permits officials to conduct suspicionless searches of (i) any electronic devices that students bring to school and (ii) all data and communications stored or transmitted on the WCS network. In so doing, the guidelines overstep the school district's authority and impermissibly burden the First and Fourth Amendment rights of WCS students. As the United States Supreme Court famously held in the landmark case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, students do not "shed their constitutional rights . . . at the schoolhouse gate."
Let's hope the school district recognizes its mistake, otherwise it appears that there may be a legal challenge to the policy coming up shortly.



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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2014 @ 11:20am

    The US fought the Taliban, and are fighting ISIS why.... this is a similar policy to what those organizations espouse, total thought control.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2014 @ 11:25am

    Good lord, this is insanity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2014 @ 11:32am

    I think everyone should try this at home and in schools for one month , invite a friend/outsider to be the overseer and controlling party, do exactly what our government and others are doing around the country , lets see how people deal with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 27 Oct 2014 @ 11:48am

    Let's hope the school district recognizes its mistake

    I'm going to hope for world peace and free pizza for everyone because it has a better chance of happening.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Geno0wl (profile), 27 Oct 2014 @ 12:05pm

    Why...

    Why do school administrators somehow believe they have the right to look through children's entire lives?
    I mean that is essentially what that policy says.
    What is so damning that a 14 year old can do that they are so afraid of?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2014 @ 12:07pm

      Re: Why...

      Free thought.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 27 Oct 2014 @ 12:45pm

      Re: Why...

      What is so damning that a 14 year old can do that they are so afraid of?

      Easy. Bullying, sexual harassment, racism, hacking, religious and other forms of intolerance, insulting teachers or administrators, whistle blowing, chewing poptarts into gun shapes and going "pew pew"; yada, yada.

      Why schools consider it their jobs to police their charges' thoughtcrimes, as opposed to just educating them, is a mystery. Do parents these days send their kids to school to get an education, or is it just subsidized daycare?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2014 @ 12:52pm

      Re: Why...

      Because parents have turned over the raising of their children to the schools.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2014 @ 5:11pm

        Re: Re: Why...

        I've heard this silly retort far too often. It is simply not correct.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 28 Oct 2014 @ 12:46pm

          Re: Re: Re: Why...

          It isn't correct for most parents, but there is a sizable number for whom it is correct, particularly among the more wealthy segment of the population.

          Nonetheless, even if the assertion were totally right, that doesn't excuse the school's behavior and attitude on this.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      chad holbrook, 27 Oct 2014 @ 1:22pm

      Re: Why...

      Because parents, by and large, want kids raised by the schools. "Don't teach evolution because I don't believe in that." "Don't teach that sciency stuff. It's confusing." "Better let my kid pray but not that kid that talks funny... he's odd and can't therefore cannot be trusted." "TV and lunchables for all kids."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2014 @ 5:16pm

        Re: Re: Why...

        Some people want to force their beliefs upon others, that is why they belly ache about scientific topics being taught in public schools. Never mind that most of them send their children to private schools or worse, home school. It has little to do with them wanting the state to raise their kids as you have suggested, it has more to do with them wanting the state to force other kids to be taught how they see fit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JT, 27 Oct 2014 @ 12:21pm

    To paraphrase . . .

    The more you tighten your grip, Tennessee, the more systems will slip through your fingers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2014 @ 1:09pm

    What is so damning that a 14 year old can do that they are so afraid of?

    Use Tor.

    Everyone who uses Tor is under suspicion of terrorism, criminal activity, or Radical Privacy Activism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2014 @ 3:43pm

      Re:

      also those how seem to be trying to avoid using tor. that is very suspicious...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 27 Oct 2014 @ 4:40pm

        Re: Re:

        also those [who] seem to be trying to avoid using tor. that is very suspicious...

        You bastard, you found me out! So boycotting them is evidence of guilt, as much as infringement! Curses, foiled again! That's it. I'm going back to classical music and reading dead tree books, both borrowed from the library or found in second hand stores.

        This century just sucks the fun out of everything. :-(

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2014 @ 5:21pm

        Re: Re:

        Suspicious internet behavior is defined as:
        1) Using TOR
        2) Not using TOR
        3) Not using the internet

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2014 @ 1:56pm

    Sadly the instructions to the school will most likely come from the NSA/CIA or another government body "testing the waters" like the iinet/hollywood case to see how far they can push a totalitarian regime onto people before they push back.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2014 @ 2:28pm

    "Let's hope the school district recognizes its mistake..."

    Let's not. It'll be WAY more entertaining, if they don't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Nate Cardozo (profile), 27 Oct 2014 @ 5:24pm

      Re: "Let's hope the school district recognizes its mistake..."

      As one of the lead attorneys on the case, while it would certainly be entertaining if they didn't, I do hope for my client's sake that the district quickly realizes its mistake and changes the policy :)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    aerilus, 27 Oct 2014 @ 3:40pm

    I dont know what these people problem is. they get a clearly defined line that says: in school=my problem out of school=not my problem. and what do these overachievers want to do they want to take over parents jobs. Half the fun of having kids is coming up with creative and educational punishments. and while putting them in this kind of setting is certainly a creative grueling punishment It should be the pleasure of the parent to think up inventive and oppressive ways to punish bad behavior. I like the time where the parents make the kids stand at intersections with signs telling what they did that's parenting gold.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Oct 2014 @ 5:00pm

    Easy fix

    Students should password lock any device they bring to school, with the password of 'IAmWrong'. Even if the student was forced to hand over the password, no one who worked at the school would ever be able to type it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 28 Oct 2014 @ 12:48pm

      Re: Easy fix

      If my children were of school age right now, I would be inclined to enforce a physical separation. No electronics from home go to school, and no electronics from school go home.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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