• High school sucks. Did you forget? Don’t believe it? Check out Facebook.

    • At least that’s the opinion of a Nicholas Blacconiere, an academy student under legal fire for enshrining his negative opinions and those of others on a private page he posted on the world’s most popular social networking site.

    • “Facebook ‘suck sites’ to be tested in court,” proclaimed the Chicago Tribune in reporting the academy’s $50,000 suit against Blacconiere for unauthorized use of the school’s logo and for emotional damage caused by defamatory comments posted on his page, titled “Tspa RobinHood.”

      Other media followed suit, with headlines such as “ ‘My School Sucks’ pages under attack,” and the like. Why it’s as if just now, a couple of months short of 2010, the First Amendment rights of Internet-savvy students are under fire and not, in fact, an ongoing and troublesome issue.

    • “Forty years ago, the Supreme Court resoundingly affirmed that young people attending public schools do not ‘shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,’ ” writes Frank D. LoMonte in “Reaching Through the School House Gate: Students’ Eroding First Amendment Right,” his February 2009 brief for the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

      Recent developments in the law of online speech, however, are rattling the certainty of that assumption,” the Student Press Law Center executive director continues. “In the view of at least some federal judges, students do not enjoy — anywhere, anytime —the same right to comment on school as ordinary citizens.”

    • It was hardly the first Facebook page posted by a disgruntled student. Even now, a Facebook search for “student organizations” with “high school” and “sucks” in the title returns hundreds of results augmented with the names of specific schools, pages that have been online for months, even years.

    • “It is ironic that high school is where students first learn about First Amendment rights, including the right to free speech, yet it is Katy’s high school that unconstitutionally trampled those very rights,” ACLU cooperating attorney Matthew D. Bavaro, said in a press release announcing the suit last December.

    • Appeals are still pending for the case of Avery Doninger, who in 2007 was not permitted to run for senior class secretary after she referred to faculty at Lewis Mills High School in Burlington, Conn., as “douchebags” on her LiveJournal blog. Faculty called the student, who’d previously never been in trouble, a cyberbully.

    • “You have sort of an Orwellian atmosphere at universities, and especially at high schools, Shibley says. “Administrators feel they have to tamp down (online speech) or somebody’s going to sue the high school.”

      “It’s a big mess, and it’s just coming out everywhere.”

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