School Law Bulletin #2003/12

School Cyberlaw Part I: Cyberspeech: First Amendment and Defamation

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

That technology confronts us with great opportunities and equally great challenges is just as true in public education as it is in other fields.While electronic technology rapidly pervades public school education, the law tags along behind. Old and established rules of law, as well as new rules, are now evolving to address unanticipated issues related to the use of electronic communications in schools. E-mail,Web pages, listservs, and electronic bulletin boards invite new (and more numerous) legal challenges for schools and the people who run them. School officials who understand the law and proceed cautiously when making decisions either to expand or curtail electronic resources and communications will reduce their risk of “cyberliability.”

This article, the first of a three-part series on technology law and public schools, addresses issues of First Amendment free speech and defamation raised by use of computers and the Internet by students and school employees. Part II will consider “Cybersafety: Child Protection and Privacy,” and Part III will look at “Cybersystems: School Operations and Other General Issues.”

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