The constitutional rights of students in education was the centerpiece of a March presentation about the fundamental issues of free speech and the intersection of vital concerns of school districts to control the school environment. It was based on a recent US Supreme Court action to allow the decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to stand. The decision upheld the student’s suspension from school.
Bell vs. Itawamba County School District focused on whether and to what extent public schools, consistent with the First Amendment, may discipline students for their off-campus speech. The Mississippi case dealt with a student who posted a profane rap video on social media. The song highlighted alleged inappropriate behavior towards some female students by high school coaches. The video referenced violent acts.
In a March 2016 legal seminar for the Rhode Island Association of School Principals (RIASP), BRCSM partners Ben Scungio and Ron Cascione discussed pivotal elements of the decision with principals from across the state. The case brings to light many sensitive issues in today’s culture in schools including: students’ use of smart phones; the right to post criticism of staff and administration on social media; the right to assemble and demonstrate; the responsibilities of 18-year-olds; censorship of student publications; and censorship of dress.