TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Schools Prohibit Personal E-mail Sites

Re: Schools Prohibit Personal E-mail Sites

Robert Bonomi (
Fri, 03 Jun 2005 01:39:59 -0000

In article <>, Steve Sobol
<> wrote:

> Lisa Hancock wrote:

>> I don't see why this is a big deal. It's the school's computers and
>> they should be able to regulate them any way they choose. It's no
>> different from the workplace where an employer dictates what can and
>> cannot be done on his computers.

> Not completely true. Private employers don't have to worry about First
> Amendment issues; public school districts do. However, there are
> probably ways to avoid those issues.

Yuppers. First Amendment means that, as a government agency, you
cannot monitor/filter/block/etc what students _say_ in outgoing
email. (It's even a seriously sticky situation in government agencies
with their employees.)

On the other hand, you _can_ ban individuals from using the equipment
_at_all_, if you have a rational reason for doing so. Like they've
been using it abusively.

Silly as it seems on the face of it, restricting them from 'saying
anything' it not the First Amendment problem that restricting them
from 'saying *specific* things' is.

BTW, this is _nothing_ new. 50-70 years ago -- _couldn't_ restrict
the *politician's* sound trucks going around trying to drum up votes,
at election time. *COULD* ban *all* sound trucks, _all_ the time..

Similarly, a government operation can restrict "what functions" the
multiple-purpose box known as an 'Internet-connected computer' is
used for, without running afoul of First Amendment.

The critical difference, from a legal viewpoint, is that when you
merely restrict the 'use' of the government's equipment, people are
free to go use _other_ equipment for the same purpose, and not be
encumbered by those restrictions.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Same thing in Chicago at the Daley
Plaza downtown. City said if you want to use loudspeakers or musical
instruments we will allow only one set of same each day, generally
first come, first served. Otherwise the Democrats on one side of the
plaza with their loudspeakers will be drowning out the Republicans
on the other side of the plaze with their sound equipment, and the
resulting cacophony will keep the public servants working in their
offices upstairs distracted. Now you had a legitimate government
concern. 'Administrative Convenience' nearly always trumps the First
Amendment. PAT]

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