The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware (ACLU-DE) has sent a letter to the Capital School District Board of Education advising them that the social media policy they are considering for students violates the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution. The policy, as written, would govern student communication both on and off school property and would apply whether school or personal electronic equipment was used.

The proposed social media policy (#700-32) would prohibit students from making negative statements of any kind against individuals or groups based on race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or citizenship. The policy also prohibits speech on other issues and states that the list of prohibited activities is “non-exclusive,” leaving the door open for further undefined restrictions to speech.

“The First Amendment protects the free speech rights of students,” said Kathleen MacRae, ACLU-DE executive director. “If a student in the Capital School District engages in distasteful or disrespectful speech online or through a social media site such as Facebook or Twitter after school hours and away from school property, they cannot be restricted from doing so or punished by the school for doing so.”

Consideration of the social media policy is on the October 19, 2011 agenda of the Capital School District Board of Education meeting. ACLU-DE legal director Richard Morse has urged them to reject the proposed policy. Morse has also urged the board to reconsider a social media policy for personnel that was approved on August 24, 2011 because it violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well. The Dover City Council and Kent County Levy Court have recently rejected similar social media policies due to constitutionality concerns.