David Hudson of the First Amendment Center is connecting the dots between the hypothetical case presented in the 2011 First Amendment Moot Court Competition (in which the College Of William and Mary Law School emerged victorious — Go Tribe!) and the questions of freedom and accountability surrounding online speech facing administrators and communities around the country:

Many questions remain in the area of off-campus student speech. How far does the arm of school authority reach and can public school officials punish students for speech created entirely off-campus? Is it enough to protect the speech if the student-creator’s friends are the sole intended audience?

In June 2010, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a pair of decisions involving students suspended for derogatory MySpace profiles of their principals. Two three-judge panels had earlier reached different decisions, compelling the entire 3rd Circuit to examine the issues. No one knows what or when the 3rd Circuit will rule.

But as First Amendment Center President Ken Paulson wrote: “The two cases involving Pennsylvania school principals and MySpace could hold the key to the future of free expression for public school students.”

We’ll keep an eye on the issue, as the case is likely to reach the Supreme Court on appeal.

(photo by noderat)