Student off-campus speech and the First Amendment

Daily News Article - May 10, 2016


1. How did U.S. District Judge John Jones rule in the case of R.L. versus Central York School District?

2. What broader issues did the judge say need clarification from a federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court?

3. What had the student done that led the school to suspend him for 23 days?

4. On what grounds did the parents sue the school district?

5. Describe the Supreme Court case on which the judge based his ruling.

6. How did Judge Jones explain his decision that the fact that the student was off-campus didn't matter?

7. a) Regarding the claims of rights violations, Judge Jones wrote:

“While we respect deeply that R.L.’s parents feel the need to vindicate him, we fundamentally disagree with their conclusion that his punishment is violative of the First Amendment. We decline the Lordans’ invitation to extend the law to what we believe is an untenable extreme. The school administrators involved in this case, if they erred at all, did so in the interest of safety and caution. Their apprehensions about potential disruption were manifestly logical. We will not deprive them of the ability to mete out appropriate sanctions via a nonsensical interpretation of precedent that tortures both law and logic.”

Do you agree with the school’s decision to suspend the student in this case? Considering what he actually wrote in his Facebook post, should the school have given him a warning and not a suspension? or Should the punishment have been stronger? What factors do you think the disciplinary board considered (or should have considered) when they gave him a 23 day suspension? Explain your answer.

b) Do you agree with Judge Jones’ ruling? Explain your answer.
c) Ask a parent: if R.L. was your son, would you take the case further after Judge Jones’ ruling? Please explain your answer.