• Posts by Sara Young
    Posts by Sara Young
    Senior Associate

    Sara Young represents school districts and other educational agencies in all matters, including participating in due process hearings, federal court hearings, and appellate proceedings; overseeing CDE compliance complaints ...

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.

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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Will Smartphones in Classrooms Be a Thing of the Past?

Spend any amount of time in a middle school or high school classroom across California, and you will witness firsthand the impact of smartphones on students’ education. In March, the results of one middle school teacher’s experiment went viral. Mary Garza encouraged students to leave their phones on, and turned up loud, during a single class period. The students then tallied each time they received a notification. In one class period, her students received over 300 text messages. The class also tallied Instagram alerts, emails, and other phone alerts. Her students received 32 phone calls during one class period on a typical school day. Overall, instruction was interrupted over 1,000 times in one period.

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