We were contacted by the mother of a 14 year old student who was being punished by a bus driver for a comment the student posted on Facebook outside of school hours on her home computer: “I didn’t know laughing was a crime.”
The posting stemmed from an incident on the bus on December 4 when the driver was disciplining some student passengers. The 14 year old student laughed at a comment made by one of the students being disciplined. In response, the bus driver disciplined the 14 year old by requiring her to sit at the front of the bus for a week. The student then posted the comment on her Facebook page. The next morning, the bus driver told the student that because of her comment on Facebook, she was required to sit at the front of the bus indefinitely.
When the mother contacted the school Superintendent regarding this punishment, she was told that the punishment would be limited to the rest of this calendar year but that the school could punish students for anything that they posted on Facebook.
We sent a strongly worded letter on a Friday afternoon outlining how the Facebook posting was protected by the First Amendment and that the disciplinary action needed to be rescinded in order to avoid legal action. The following Monday, the 14 year old student the student was called into the Vice-Principal’s office and told that she could sit anywhere on the bus that she wanted. The Vice-Principal also told her that if she had any more problems with the bus driver to tell her to see him.
The case is now closed.