Facebooking Teen Wins Day in Court

Judge's decision paves way for teacher-critical teen to win speech case

Hey teacher, leave those social networking kids alone.

That's the message one South Florida principal received yesterday after a federal judge ruled that a high school student's Facebook page that blasted her teacher is protected by the First Amendment, according to the Miami Herald.

Katherine Evans, a former Pembroke Pines Charter High student, set up the page in 2007 to criticize "the worst teacher I've ever met."

Though she took the page down a few days later, the honors student was suspended from school and dropped from advanced classes.

A year later, with the help of the ACLU, she sued principal Peter Bayer, claiming the suspension was unconstitutional.

Bayer's attempt to have the suit thrown out was rejected Friday by Magistrate Judge Barry Garber, paving the way for the now 19-year-old Evans to seek compensation from the principal.

"Evans' speech falls under the wide umbrella of protected speech," Garber wrote in his decision, according to the Herald. "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."

The lawsuit isn't over, but it is moving forward and could set a precedent for free speech on social networking sites as well as punishing students for speech outside the classroom.

"These days, things are done on the Internet. Socialization is done on the Internet," said Matthew Bavaro, with the ACLU. "So the law needs to adapt and we need precedent on how courts are going to apply First Amendment principles for off-campus speech."

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