Layshock v. Hermitage Sch. Dist., No. 07-4465 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
A student created a fake profile of his high school principal on a social networking internet web site, using his grandmother's computer. Some students saw the profile from school computers before the school disabled them. The student was suspended for 10 days, required to finish the school year at an alternative school, and banned from extra-curricullar activities and the graduation ceremony. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the student on his First Amendment (42 U.S.C. 1983) claim. The Third Circuit affirmed, but vacated for rehearing en banc, following which it again affirmed. The school district response to the conduct transcended the protection of free expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. Student expression may not be suppressed unless school officials reasonably conclude that it will materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school. The school district could not establish a sufficient nexus between the speech and disruption of the school environment. The student's attempt to use a picture from the district website did not establish such a connection, nor did the use of school computers, by other students, to access the site.