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Third Circuit Grants Rehearing to Resolve Contradictory Results on Students’ Online Speech

PHILADELPHIA - (Mealey's) In a pair of orders issued April 9, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed to rehear two cases en banc, both of which pertain to students' in-school discipline for their online behavior that occurred off school grounds (J.S., a minor, through her parents Terry Snyder; Steve Snyder v. Blue Mountain School District, et al., No. 08-4138; Justin Layshock, a minor, by and through his parents, et al. v. Hermitage School District, et al., No. 07-4465 and 07-4555; 3rd Cir.).

Third Circuit panels issued opinions in the cases on Feb. 4.  In Layshock, one panel held that a school's discipline of a student for his online behavior violated his First Amendment free speech rights and that the school's authority did not reach to his off-campus behavior.  In Blue Mountain, a different panel ruled that a school district acted within its authority by disciplining a student for creating an online profile that alluded to "sexually inappropriate behavior and illegal conduct" by her principal because the student's behavior "threatened to substantially disrupt" the school.

The losing side in each case moved for rehearing, citing the seemingly contradictory ruling in the other case, among other case law on the topic of students' right to free speech.

The orders state that the Feb. 4 opinions and judgments in each case have been vacated.  Both cases are set for rehearing on June 3 at 10 a.m.

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the April issue of Mealey's Cyber Tech and E-Commerce Report E-mail Bulletin.  In the meantime, the orders are available at or by calling the Customer Support Department at 1-800-833-9844.  Documents #24-100415-034R and Document #24-100415-035R.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit]

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