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MySpace Misbehavior and Courtroom Corruption

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Here's a troubling story about a MySpace prank gone awry.

A teen in Wilkes Barre, Pa., was sent by the local juvenile court in 2007 to a privately run youth detention center after creating a spoof MySpace page of her assistant principal. According to The Associated Press article, the teen claims she wasn't told of her right to an attorney. Now prosecutors have uncovered what they say is an elaborate kickback scheme that put millions in the pockets of two judges who made a deal with the detention centers to send them more inmates.

This raises all kinds of issues about corruption in the court system. But more relevant for the interests of this blog are the unanswered questions about students' free speech rights and whether the reach of school authorities extends to Internet activities off campus.

Where do you stand on the issue of disciplining students for online activities that occur off campus?

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Libel is one thing--satire is something else again. As a former high school journalism teacher, I'm familiar with the tendency of school administrators to wish that they could put a muzzle on smartmouthed (or perhaps "smartkeyboarded?") teens' opinions.

The fact is, kids do have a legal right to express themselves, as long as they don't slip over into libel, defamation, copyright infringement--you know, the rules we all have to follow, for civil discourse.

Therefore you won't be surprised to learn that I believe schools have no business penalizing students for exercising LAWFUL free speech (no matter how much a school official may find it annoying or embarrassing).

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