Kowalski v. Berkeley County Schools, et al., No. 10-1098 (4th Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff sued defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, contending that in disciplining her for a MySpace.com webpage, which was largely dedicated to ridiculing a fellow student, defendants violated her free speech and due process rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff alleged, among other things, that defendants were not justified in regulating her speech because it did not occur during a "school-related activity," but rather was "private out-of-school speech." The court held that defendants' imposition of sanctions was permissible where plaintiff used the Internet to orchestrate a targeted attack on a classmate and did so in a manner that was sufficiently connected to the school environment as to implicate defendants' recognized authority to discipline speech which "materially and substantially interfere[d] with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school and collid[ed] with the rights of others." Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants.