TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Schools Prohibit Personal E-mail Sites

Re: Schools Prohibit Personal E-mail Sites

Robert Bonomi (
Mon, 06 Jun 2005 10:46:21 -0000

In article <>,
<> wrote:

> Robert Bonomi wrote:

>> Yuppers. First Amendment means that, as a government agency, you
>> cannot monitor/filter/block/etc what students _say_ in outgoing
>> email. (It's even a seriously sticky situation in government agencies
>> with their employees.)

> Sorry, but I know too many government agencies that have strict rules
> on what their employees may say using any government equipment, and
> AFAIK these rules are perfectly legal and upheld.

Generally, true, *today*. There is a _long_ history of attempts at
such rules that have been held partially or wholly void, necessitating

Government-as-employer is a _very_ complex legal situation. There is a
difficult balancing act between exercise of 'rights' _as_employer_ and
infringing on the 'civil rights' of the employee.

There are very few 'employer rights' that a governmental entity cannot
exercise, *BUT*, in many cases, they must be _very_careful_ in regard
to how they go about exercising those rights, and what advance
notifications are given.

What you 'know' simply establishes that a path through the swamp has
been successfully charted. The swamp is still there.

> Employees have been terminated over violations and their unions were
> unable to do anything. Shop stewards have been fired and union
> activists convicted of trespassing for exceeding the boundaries of
> these rules.

Says a lot about the intelligence/wisdom (or lack thereof) of shop
stewards and union activists, doesn't it? <wry grin>

> A government agency may secretly monitor employees' phone calls and
> computer use without any warning or notice.

> I assure you the unions would've fought this stuff if they could've.

> Further, agencies have rules regarding public statements, such as that
> external questions have to be forwarded to the designated public
> affairs officer.

> Just because something is publicly funded does not change every rule
> or policy.

> I think what you folks are confusing is the right of students and
> goverment employees to freely speak outside of school or work. That
> is protected speech. But inside the building, especially on
> government owned facilities -- computers, phones, bulletin boards*,
> etc., you do not have that protection.

The bodies of law regarding what is allowable 'in school', and 'at
work' are _significantly_ different.

The body of law regarding what is allowable/acceptable in a government
work-place is significantly different that what is allowable/
acceptable in a private employer's workplace.

>> On the other hand, you _can_ ban individuals from using the equipment
>> _at_all_, if you have a rational reason for doing so.

> Equipment may be assigned or not assigned to individuals as the
> administration sees fit in school or in industry.

>> Silly as it seems on the face of it, restricting them from 'saying
>> anything' it not the First Amendment problem that restricting them
>> from 'saying *specific* things' is.

> Sorry, but rules do exist prohibiting "specific things" in government
> and in schools.

> My local library requires a signature observing their rules on using
> their public computers.

Would you care to itemize the 'saying specific things' forbidden by
those rules?

> Just because someone is publicly funded does not mean the individual
> using it has unlimited rights over it. When you drive a car on a
> public road or visit a public park you must obey the law on usage.

Apparently, you missed -- or didn't think it significant -- the word
"saying" in the phrase 'saying *specific* things'. Use of public
roads, or public parks, has *nothing* to do with 1st Amend rights.

That aside, Because something _is_ publicly funded, and made available
to the public, 'at large', *does* mean that there are restrictions and
limitations that the government can exercise over what 'the public'
can do on/with that 'something'.

> There is no such thing as unlimited free speech. Try screaming a
> tirade at your neighbor and you'll get a summons for disorderly
> conduct. There are many examples.

Which has nothing to do with 'free speech', in point of fact. The
summons is for _how_ you did things, not _what_ you said.

Regulating/restricting the _content_ of speech has very high barriers
to overcome.

Regulating/restricting the _form_ of speech faces far, _far_ lower

> Indeed, lately many people have objected toward the expression of
> religion in public schools and some courts have upheld restrictions on
> that. For example, a school choir was forbidden by the courts to sing
> black spiritual gospel songs even as an all-volunteer after school
> activity.

> As Pat said, administrative convenience is important or schools and
> government would grind to a halt mired in bureaucracy. Yes, different
> states and municipalities do vary, but this is the way it is.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: It is also important to remember the
> difference between someone who is _governed by the government_ versus
> someone who is _employed by the government_ (except as the government
> employee happens to coincidentally also be a citizen). Things like
> the First Amendment theoretically serve as protection for those who
> are being governed. While it is grossly inconvenient for most of us
> to choose some other governor, on the other hand we have no automatic
> right to _employment_ by the government. Because of the inconvenience
> or impossibility for us to change governors, we therefore get the
> protection of things like the Bill of Right, which do not have to be
> given to a 'mere' employee, of the government or otherwise. And
> administrative convenience is given much weight in the courts. The
> goverment says 'it is more convenient for us to have person X do our
> speaking for us, and for persons Y and Z to keep quiet.' And the
> courts have occassionally ruled that this is _not_ a violation of
> persons Y and Z 'free speech rights'. Certainly any person being
> governed can speak _about_ the government, but they cannot speak _for_
> the government nor mislead any reasonable person to think that is
> what they are doing. PAT]

Pat, you may want to re-think your position. I'm in _complete_ agreement
with your comments. :)

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: This is to Lisa Hancock regards the
school choir denied the right to sing their songs even as an after
school volunteer activity. The same thing happened several years ago
in Chicago, compliments of the boneheads at the ACLU. So the kids at
the school got even, with help from their choirmaster and the parents.
Their after school activity withdrew _any and all_ affiliation with
the public schools. They made it plain in their concert programs that
they were _NOT_ affiliated in any way with the Chicago Public Schools.
They further noted in their concert programs that their choirmaster
and musicians were employed _by the choir_, and not by the Chicago
Public Schools. "Although most members of our choir are in fact
students in the Chicago Public Schools, and occassionally it is
convenient for the choir to rent an auditorium facility from the
Chicago Public Schools to give performances, we have absolutely no
connection with the Chicago Public Schools." They gave programs of
choral music by Bach, Handel and Mozart. _Tough stuff_ and always
excellently done. Of course, much of it made reference to God or
(in the case of some of Handel's oratorios), passages of scripture.
Stuff that almost caused me to faint, it was that well done. And
when asked why they were not affiliated with one of the schools, the
choirmaster would always say afterward, _now_ do you see why we have
no affiliation with the Chicago Public Schools? We would not be
allowed to do what we want to do. We do not sing and play for the
lowest common denominator, which is what would be expected of us,
and all we would be allowed. A couple of the school system's
principals, who were still a bit sensitive to when the choir and
their choirmaster had 'pulled out of school' responded by saying,
"Well, you don't have to be so snotty about it!" ... but the
choirmaster's response was that just because the schools would only
allow very bland and generic 'jingle bells' songs at Christmas did
not mean _they_ had to, or intended to settle for that. PAT]

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