Law360 Guest Column: Social Media, Speech And The Schoolhouse


The U.S. Supreme Court soon will have the opportunity to consider the extent to which the First Amendment protects student use of social media sites and blogs off campus.

A former high school student who was suspended for her off-campus blog posting has filed a petition for certiorari with the court.[1] The student, Avery Doninger, has claimed that the suspension violated her First Amendment rights to free speech and expression.[2] The Second Circuit sided with the school district in 2008 and again in April of this year.

Doninger’s petition comes at an opportune time. In June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided two cases, discussed below, in which a student was punished for using the social networking site MySpace to disparage a school official.[3] In both cases, the court held that the students’ use of the site, which occurred off campus on home computers, was protected speech.[4] But in more recent decisions by the Fourth and Eighth Circuits, the courts held that even off-campus use of social media can be punishable if it is likely to cause a substantial disruption on campus.[5]

Excerpt from Media & Entertainment Law360, August 11, 2011. To view the full article, click the PDF linked below.

PDF - Social_media_speech_and_the_schoolhouse


[1]  See Doninger v. Niehoff, No. 11-113 (U.S. July 25, 2011), filing history available at

...[1]  See Doninger v. Niehoff, No. 11-113 (U.S. July 25, 2011), filing history available at .

[2] See Doninger v. Niehoff, 527 F.3d 41 (2d Cir. 2008); Doninger v. Niehoff, 642 F.3d 334 (2d Cir. 2011).

[3] See J.S. v. Blue Mountain Sch. Dist., No. 08-4138, (3d Cir. June 13, 2011); Layshock v. Hermitage Sch. Dist., No. 07-4465, 2011 U.S. App. (3d Cir. June 13, 2011).

[4] Id.

[5] See Kowalski v. Berkeley County Sch., No. 10-1098, 2011 U.S. App. (4th Cir. July 27, 2011); D.J.M. v. Hannibal Pub. Sch. Dist., No. 10-1428, No. 10-1579, 2011 U.S. App. (8th Cir. Aug. 1, 2011).

Email Disclaimer