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Reply #21: The First Amendment applies to the Internet, Too [View All]

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markpkessinger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-29-11 01:50 PM
Response to Reply #14
21. The First Amendment applies to the Internet, Too
Although it might be a detestable thing to do, a person is entitled to talk trash in a public forum if s/he wishes to. If, however, s/he publishes something that could be considered libelous, the aggrieved party might have a legal cause of action provided that party could meet the legal test for libel. If the aggrieved party is an ordinary citizen, there is a three-pronged test for libel: (1) the aggrieved person must prove that the statement was false; (2) that person must prove that the statement caused harm; and (3) the person must prove that the statement was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement. If the aggrieved party is a public official (and a public school teacher might qualify as such), there is an additional requirement that must be met, which is that the aggrieved person must also prove that the statement was made with the intent to do harm. Calling someone a "fat ass" cannot really be proved to be either true or false, since it is a subjective description. It would be pretty hard to say that a student's subjective epithet against a teacher in a semi-public internet forum caused that teacher any real harm. The issue of adequate research is moot because it is not an objective statement for which research can provide an answer. So we're 0 in 3. And if the court were to deem a public school teacher as a public official, how could it be proved that a student expressing a subjective opinion about a teacher was intended to cause harm?

So, if anybody has a lesson to learn here, it is the teacher and the school administrators, who apparently don't understand that (a) unflattering epithets from students towards teachers goes with the territory, and (b) the law does not protect people from hurt feelings.

prove damages (which can be a pretty tough thing to prove). It's pretty hard to conceive of any court deeming "fat ass" to be slander or libel, because it is clearly a subjective epithet
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