Your rights involving computers, what schools teach you, immigration, and more.
Students and Online Rights
How much can the school restrict what I do on the school computer?
Somewhat. Most schools have strict limits on how you can use computers owned by the schools, either desktop computers or laptops you might be allowed to take home. There usually are restrictions on websites you can visit, and often the computers themselves have blocking software installed.
Also, because the computer is owned by the school, the school has no legal right to respect your privacy on what you write, what and who you email, what websites you visit, etc. Never store personal information on a school computer. And just expect that teachers and school administrators will be monitoring how the computers are used.
Most disputes over alleged student misuse of computers and texting and cell phones have occurred when students have posted or transmitted material that is obscene, encourages illegal conduct, or invades the rights or privacy of others. School administrators have also tried to punish students whose online postings have been threatening, "insubordinate," or slanderous.
Can my school filter out computer information on LGBTQ issues?
No. Some public schools are wrongly using web filtering software to block student access to positive info about LGBTQ issues and organizations. This violates students’ First Amendment rights to free speech. It also violates the Equal Access Act, which requires equal access to school resources for all extracurricular clubs, including gay-straight alliances and LGBTQ support groups.
Some schools have even set up web filters to block access to websites for positive LGBTQ rights organizations, but still allow access to anti-LGBT sites that condemn LGBTQ people or urge gay students to try to change their sexual orientation. This is called viewpoint discrimination, and it’s also illegal.
If your school is filtering out positive information on LGBTQ issues, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is wrong and we can help!
How much can the school restrict what I do on my own time on my own computer at home?
If it involves other students, a lot. Schools are likely to get involved in what you are doing at home on your own computer when it might affect other students or the school. A major trigger for school intervention is any comments (or even jokes) that might be interpreted as a threat against the school or a student.
Other students across the country have been punished by school authorities for posting sites or messages that inappropriately target other students, teachers, administrators, or school staff.
This is a new area of the law, but for the moment, most schools will tolerate mature, well-presented criticisms of the school. But schools are likely to punish harassment or racist, sexist, and other inappropriate materials, especially those aimed at other students or school staff. Check the test of free speech for more information. This applies to electronic postings, too.