So, your school caught you doing something dumb on social media. Maybe your friend posted a video of your underage drinking, driving on the wrong side of the road, or ranting about politics. Whatever the case may be, your school has seen the video or picture, and you are worried if they can punish you. The answer to that is more nuanced than a simple “yes” or “no.”
Really, it depends on whether the subject matter of the posting disrupts the learning environment at your school. If it is, then yes, your school can punish you. But how do you find out if it is disruptive enough?
What Does “Disruptive” Even Mean?
When you think of the word “disruptive,” you might think of someone who's starting trouble, acting disorderly, or being rowdy in some way, and you'd be right. In terms of social media, if a post or video creates a disruption to the learning environment on campus, more so than general gossip, it becomes punishable by the school.
For instance, if a student posts a picture of another student smoking marijuana on social media before the homecoming dance that caused a commotion, that would likely be considered disruptive speech. The dance may take place far from the actual school campus, but because it is a school event, it is connected to the school. Schools have a duty to protect students from illegal activities, including smoking marijuana (if you are underage and/or living in a state where recreational or medical marijuana is not legalized). This means that they can legitimately punish you for causing a disruption to the learning environment.
Alternatively, if you are caught making a joke on your social media about how your teacher is a drunk you probably won't be punished by the school, especially if it is not a violent or targeted comment and doesn't disrupt the learning environment. But you might be risking a defamation lawsuit from the teacher, so it is still important to think before you speak on social media.
How an Attorney Can Help
Punishments for social media posts gone wrong vary greatly from one school to the next. In high school, the punishments can range from detention to suspension or even expulsion, the severity depending on the nature of the post or video and how much disruption it has caused. The ripple effects of these consequences can affect your life far into the future.
Higher education punishments may include probation, academic probation, loss of privileges on campus, removal from current housing, academic holds, suspension, or expulsion. And it is important to remember that if you are suspended or expelled from your college or graduate school, it will follow you for the near and far future. These punishments are noted on your college transcripts and will need to be disclosed on future education applications, making it harder to gain admission. Other doors can close also, including professional and government employment opportunities, simply by having to disclose a past disciplinary matter when competing for a position.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have spent years helping students across the United States navigate these types of situations. They understand how important your future is and will work tirelessly to protect it from unnecessary consequences. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.