Students and Social Media – Can Schools Discipline Students for Off-Campus Speech?

With an estimated 3.96 billion social media users worldwide, it is no surprise to learn that most students have at least one social media account.  Whether it is Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or TikTok, people of all ages, from your 85 year-old grandmother to your 7 year-old nephew, can be found sharing their life somewhere on a social media platform (and possibly, your life too!).  In 2021, it appears acceptable to share all types of information, from the tiniest of details, such as what you ate for lunch or your newest dance moves, to more controversial items, such as political and religious beliefs.  People share the details of their everyday lives with friends, family, and strangers.  For many social media users, their first inclination is to “post” about any experience they have just encountered - the good, the bad, and the ugly, with their closest “friends.”  In a world where posting or snapping about any thought instantaneously occurs, when is sharing an opinion or criticism too much, and who decides when enough is enough?  This is the question the U.S. Supreme Court recently reviewed in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. By and Through Levy (2021) _ _ _ U.S. _ _ _ 2021 WL 2557069, when the Court reviewed whether school officials had the right to regulate or punish a student for her off-campus, social media speech.

Earlier this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (“Ninth Circuit”) affirmed a lower court’s decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (9th Cir. 2021) 991 F.3d 1004, holding that a school district’s direction to a high school football coach not to engage in religious conduct through prayer immediately after the game in front of students and spectators did not violate the coach’s First Amendment right to free speech.  On balance, the Ninth Circuit confirmed that allowing the conduct would have risked the school’s violation of the Establishment Clause.  As outlined below, the case outcome was fact-specific and driven by the unique circumstances giving rise to the Coach’s claim.

As school districts wrap up the 2020-2021 school year and look ahead to planning for the next school year, this is the perfect opportunity to reflect on lessons learned during the 15-months of COVID-19 related remote education. One of the most significant issues that arose during distance learning was the extent to which districts should monitor students' online activities coupled with the means by which to do so. This month’s post focuses on key considerations and best practices for monitoring students’ online activities.

Last month, the EdLawConnect Blog discussed the increased inequities faced by students and communities as a result of distance learning.  While access to technology can pose barriers and challenges to educational equity in the classroom, technology can also be harnessed to overcome barriers and challenges to equity, providing a key benefit to the school community.  This month, we will focus on using technology to engage parents and students and to support student success.

Students arrive to school with different resources and levels of preparedness, thus, the systems put in place to ensure each student succeeds must be different and take into account this underlying inequity. To put effective systems in place requires understanding of the unique challenges and barriers faced by students in the school community, and providing additional supports to assist students in overcoming barriers.  While educational equity does not ensure equal outcomes, educational equity is designed to ensure each student has an equal opportunity to be successful in school through the provision of appropriate and necessary support.

Flying somewhat under the radar (bad pun not intended), the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) approved new rules that went into effect at the end of December 2020 allowing drone operators to fly a broader range of missions without the need to obtain a certificate of authorization (“COA”).  These new regulations will have the force and effect of allowing school and community college districts to expand their existing drone operations.

Brown Act — Confidentiality of Closed Session Information

In the interest of protecting the integrity of confidential information discussed during closed session, the Legislature enacted Government Code section 54963 as part of the Brown Act. This section prohibits board members from disclosing confidential information that has been acquired by being present in closed session to a person not entitled to receive it, unless the board authorizes disclosure.

Categories: School District
Tags: Brown Act
Leading and Managing Employees Remotely: Telecommuting in Education

This is the first blog post in a series that will address issues that arise when educational employees work remotely using technology and when students access education remotely including, but not limited to: learning applications, cybersecurity, equity, and accessibility.

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Is Your Website ADA-Compliant?  Web Accessibility Lawsuits May Soon Be On the Rise as California High Courts Expand the Reach of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Unruh Civil Rights Act

Within the past month, California courts have issued rulings expanding the types of lawsuits that may be filed against website operators for failing to maintain certain accessibility standards.  Given these rulings and the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights’ recent trend towards focusing on website accessibility for local educational agencies (LEA), it is more important than ever to assess whether your websites meet industry standards for accessibility.

Proactive Steps to Combat Microaggressions and Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

While school and community college districts have policies and complaint procedures to address overt unlawful discrimination and harassment in the workplace, there is a more subtle aspect of workplace culture which creates potential liability for employers – microaggressions.

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