The Indiana Court of Appeals has found that a juvenile’s MySpace postings under a fake profile in the name of her school principal is constitutionally protected free speech. The false profile attacked the school’s body piercing’s policy.Hat tip to Charles Wilson at the Associated Press.
In my view, the Indiana appellate court missed the boat. The issue wasn’t free speech. It was impersonating the principal and posting the views under his name. That is not constitutionally protected.
Let’s take a Texas case as an example of why the distinction is important. An assistant principal is suing two students and their parents because of a MySpace profile that falsely identified the assistant principal in a fake profile as a lesbian and contain sexually explicit content. Once again, the issue isn’t free speech. It is impersonation of another online.
This is more than a teen prank. The reputations of these educators are at stake. As for the teens, a trip to the woodshed is in order…both for them and their parents.