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Cyberspace Off-Campus Student RightsA Legal Frontier For School Administrators

Bowlin, David Allen (2004) Cyberspace Off-Campus Student RightsA Legal Frontier For School Administrators. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Schools and, more specifically, school administrators, have been charged with balancing the expressive rights of students while maintaining a safe school environment. Recently, student created websites have become the chosen method in which students have voiced their opinions about schools, teachers and school administrators. Many school administrators have been quick to discipline students for off-campus Internet speech because they feel the content may be socially inappropriate. Quite simply, the shootings at Columbine gave school administrators all the reasons they needed to trounce the First Amendment rights of public school students in the name of preventing violence. Absent, however, of any "true" threat or substantial disruption to the educational environment, student off-campus Internet speech is protected under the First Amendment. In some of the litigated cases, there were out of court settlements as well as summary judgments that included significant costs to the school district. There is a great need for descriptive guidelines to assist school administrators when dealing with off-campus First Amendment Internet speech issues. This dissertation analyzes Lower Court case law pertaining to student off-campus Internet free speech. A Reasonable Forecast Tool, developed from historical U.S. Supreme Court First Amendment case law, is used to analyze the Lower Court cases and to help create the descriptive guidelines. These guidelines enable the administrator to conduct a comprehensive investigation which includes the application of the substantial disruption standard used by most Lower Courts as proscribed by Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969). The guidelines provide the administrator with the ability to make a well informed decision ensuring the protection of student expressive rights while being able to maintain a safe learning environment.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Bowlin, David
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGorman, Charlesgorman@pitt.eduGORMAN
Committee MemberKent, Chesterkent@pitt.eduKENT
Committee MemberSeckinger,
Committee MemberHughes, Seanhughes@pitt.eduHUGHES
Date: 22 October 2004
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 3 September 2004
Approval Date: 22 October 2004
Submission Date: 30 September 2004
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: cyberspace; guidelines; internet; Legal; speech
Other ID:, etd-09302004-134508
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:02
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:50


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