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9th U.S. Circuit ruling: AZ students can be disciplined for certain off-campus, social media posts

Published: Friday, January 13, 2023 - 5:14pm
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Bruna Pedrini is an education law attorney in Phoenix.

A new ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees Arizona, found that high school students can be disciplined for certain online, off-campus behavior.

Despite the fact that the posts were private and made off campus, the court found the students could still be disciplined, because their posts were threatening and led to a serious disruption on campus.

Bruna Pedrini is an education law attorney at Fennemore Craig in Phoenix.

"They made very vitriolic, very vicious statements about the students base upon race and also used images," Pedrini said. "There were nooses and the like and things the students and others identified as threats."

As a result, the targeted students sought mental health services, skipped classes or didn't attend school at all.

Pedrini said Arizona schools need to understand that the law is catching up with technology and they need to update their handbooks. 

“If the student is using harassing speech that targets specific individuals or uses threats of violence or violent images, that’s not acceptable and it subjects the students to discipline," she said. 

The court rejected claims from students in California that their free speech rights were violated under the First Amendment.