Court Backs Suspension of High Schooler for Alleged Online Bullying

2 06 2012
July 28, 2011
By now, careful readers of this forum should be well aware that the internet and minors can be a combustible combination.

Lawsuits alleging that a student has engaged in online misbehavior of some sort are so common that enterprising  lawyers may want to consider carving out a specialty in cyber-law or internet torts.

The latest dispute of note involves Musselman High School in Berkeley County, West Virginia. In 2005, the school suspended then high school senior Kara Kowalski  for five days for creating a webpage called “S.A.S.H.,” which stood for “Students Against Sluts Herpes” and which ridiculed a fellow student, according to this opinion yesterday by the 4th Circuit.

Kowalski sued the school and five of its officers, contending that they violated her free speech and due process rights. She claims the school was not justified in disciplining her, because her speech did not occur during a “school related activity,” but rather was “private out-of-school speech,” according to the opinion.

Cut to the conclusion. A unanimous three-judge panel of the court ruled that the school had legal grounds to punish Kowalski.


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