Golden Gate University Law Review


This Comment identifies the underlying principles of Supreme Court precedent governing student speech rights and applies those principles, as appropriate, to analyze online student speech. Part I provides a background of the four Supreme Court cases governing student speech. Four factors are identified from the Supreme Court decisions that continue to guide the analysis of student speech rights: sponsorship, location, effect, and content. Part II explores lower courts’ confusion in applying the four factors to online student speech cases. Finally, Part III examines the factors applicable to online student speech and provides guidance for future courts to analyze online student speech rights. As the predominant Supreme Court precedent, the Tinker standard should be used to analyze online student speech cases because it correctly addresses the effect of a student’s speech felt within the school. Further, three categories are presented that should guide courts’ assessment of the content of online student speech: outrageous or inherently offensive speech; speech that is focused or targeted toward the school, students, or faculty; and general school-related speech. Lower courts need a standard to analyze student speech, but until the Supreme Court specifically rules on online student speech, the principles set forth in previous rulings must be consistently applied.