Just in time for Halloween comes a story of vampires invading the United States Courts. High school students who are part of a school vampire club calling themselves “The Fangtastics” are suing their high school administration for allegedly violating their right to free speech.
The Fangtastics posted vampire-related content on the student “wall” of their high school’s official social media fan page. When the principal decided not to recognize the club as a legitimate school club (because she believed it endorsed dangerous cult activity), students posted a critical satire about the decision. The student administrator of the wall was asked to remove the satirical student postings, but refused. The principal claimed that the students had violated school policies by posting content that threatened a “safe and efficient learning environment”, and censored the speech herself. The students filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court claiming that their First Amendment right to free speech had been violated.
Here’s the BOO! – the whole thing is fictitious, and part of an interactive educational program designed for students to learn about courtroom debate. The program offers a teachable moment on the First Amendment and social media. It applies the precedent set in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, the Supreme Court’s school newspaper censorship decision, to a fictional scenario involving a student vampire club. Instructors may choose an Oxford-style debate, or a full-fledged courtroom mock trial to examine opposing sides of the social media/free speech issue.
The topic is The First Amendment and Social Media: Student Rights, Wrongs, and Responsibilities. The program has something for every student’s aptitudes and abilities. Everyone has the opportunity to participate fully. It is highly interactive and combines the vampire craze and social media, two strong subjects among high school students. It is a great way to explore a current issue by participating in trial and jury deliberations.
This is a terrific idea from our court system – and part of an ongoing educational series they put on called Classrooms to Courtrooms. Kudos to the U.S. Courts for doing this, and “Happy Halloween” to them… and to you!