Earlier this week a federal magistrate weighed in on the case and declared, "Evans' free speech falls under the wide umbrella of protected speech. It was an opinion of a student about a teacher, that was published off-campus, did not cause any disruption on-campus, and was not lewd, vulgar, threatening, or advocating illegal or dangerous behavior," and that Evans' rant "falls under the wide umbrella of protected speech." In other words, Evans' rant was protected under the First Amendment. Therefore, the suit against the principal will not be dismissed but rather will be allowed to move forward once it is amended so that it no longer requests a removal of the suspension from her record.
At this point, the story has garnered national attention and the ACLU is involved. I believe, and so do a number of experts on First Amendment law, this case will be important.
As I've processed all the articles and information about this case over the last few days, here are some points that are worthy of consideration. I'm not weighing in on any of these but am offering them up for thought and for discussion.
- Did the school's student handbook expressly prohibit students from referencing the school or school employees on a website or social media site? If so, would (should) this even be an issue now? If not, on what basis did the principal punish Evans?
- Did the school's principal err in his judgment to suspend Evans for three days (and remove her from her AP English class) considering first, the Facebook page came down only a few days after it went up; second, the page contained nothing but her opinion and was, in fact, neither alarming nor obscene; third, the incident was dealt with two months after the page came down?
- Would events have unfolded any differently if the principal discovered the page, asked Evans to remove it, and Evans complied? Would events have unfolded any differently if the principal had discovered the page, asked Evans to remove it, and Evans refused?
I will be watching this story carefully and will post updates as they become available.
On a side note, I find it only fitting that Evans currently is enrolled in the University of Florida and is studying journalism.
If you're interested in more articles about the case, click HERE.