Understanding student speech rights in the digital age

A 2-hour workshop taught by Claire J. Porter, JD, M.Ed.

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Overview

On a daily basis, school administrators deal with on-campus, student speech issues; increasingly, they are also asked to address online, off-campus scenarios such as cyberbullying, online parodies of teachers and administrators, and true threats to the school and students.  In the absence of a Supreme Court decision that clearly guides administrators as to when a school may regulate online, off-campus speech, they understandably struggle with trying to balance student free speech rights with the responsibility to maintain a safe and orderly school environment. This workshop will provide a refresher of First Amendment student speech considerations and practical guidance on how to approach online, off-campus student speech.

Many school districts will accept participation in our workshops as continuing education units (CEUs) if you present them with our certificate of completion, which will confirm your participation in this 2.0 hour professional development workshop. These are available upon request. Please consult with your district to find out what they require before registering for the workshop if you are interested in receiving CEUs.

Expected outcomes

Your takeaways will be a clear understanding of  the Supreme Court cases that address student speech and the tests they enunciate that guide analysis of on-campus speech scenarios; an understanding of the Equal Access Act when considering student non-curricular club ‘access’  on campus; how to balance the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause when looking at religious speech by students and teachers; how to analyze student publications; how to determine whether one is dealing with a true threat, and online parodies, cyberbullying (including protected classes analysis), and when and how one may restrict the speech rights of students for their off-campus, online speech.

Who should attend?

This workshop is recommended for principals, associate principals, teachers and others who seek guidance in the often difficult challenge of balancing First Amendment student free speech rights with the need to keep a safe, orderly, education focused environment, particularly in the digital age.

Agenda

  1. Speech
    1. What is speech?
    2. What kind of speech is protected, or not, by the First Amendment
  2. Review of Supreme Court student speech cases
    1. Forum analysis
    2. Four seminal Supreme Court student speech cases
  3. Student clubs and the Equal Access Act requirements
  4. Publications
    1. School-sponsored
    2. Underground student publications
    3. Time, place and manner restrictions
  5. Religious speech
    1. The Establishment Clause
    2. The Free Exercise Clause
  6. Online, Off-Campus Speech
    1. True Threats
    2. Administrator and teacher parodies
    3. Substantial disruption
    4. Tests from the circuit courts in approaching online, off-campus speech
  7. Speech and Searches (4th amendment)
  8. Cyberbullying
    1. Hostile environment and deliberate indifference
    2. OCR Dear Colleague guidance
    3. Best practices and policy recommendations

About the instructor

Claire J. Porter has worked in education for over 15 years, in several different capacities: middle and high school teacher, Dean of Students and Associate Principal at the high school level, and most recently as the Director of Secondary Education for Orange County Schools in North Carolina.

She received an M.Ed. in Educational Administration from Iowa State Univeristy and her law degree from Tulane University. She was a licensed attorney in Connecticut, New York, and Virginia. She practiced law and mediation in Virginia before beginning her career in education.

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