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Some Students Find Themselves In Principal's Office Over Blogs

The Wall Street Journal Online - 11/26/06

By Vauhini Vara

Schools around the country have wrestled with how to deal with students' online writings, and the debate has spilled from classrooms to courtrooms. So far, there is little legal consensus on the circumstances in which schools are authorized to punish students for their blogging, according to Thomas H. Clarke Jr., a lawyer in San Francisco with Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley who focuses on First Amendment issues.

He noted that a handful of courts have examined cases in which schools disciplined students for off-campus writings, taking into account factors such as whether the student published threats against the school or other students, and whether the materials were accessed on campus by students or administrators. While some courts have ruled against schools that tried to punish students for their Web sites -- even when the content was vulgar or threatening -- others have decided that online writings can be subject to school restrictions. "The courts are all over the place. Trying to find consistency among all these different rules and opinions is extraordinarily difficult," Mr. Clarke said.