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

Re: Schools Prohibit Personal E-mail Sites
7 Jun 2005 09:07:12 -0700

Robert Bonomi wrote:

>> 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
> re-writes.

Until around 1975 government employees were under many restrictions.
There was a law, the Hatch Act, that prohibited politicking by
government employees. That made sense in the idea it was to avoid
government employees serving as patronage or beholden to elected
officials for their jobs. Until that time Federal employees had to
sign off that they weren't Communists. They didn't even want to see
bumper stickers on cars in employee parking lots. They wanted the
appearance of strict neutrality.

The laws today are different. There certainly does remain some
restrictions within the workplace.

> 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.

ALL employers face many regulations. That is one of the motivations
for established companies to dump long-time employees and go to
outsourcing or contract workers.

> 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.

There is substantial variety among government employers and private
employers. But I am not aware of "significant" differences between
public and private as to day-to-day workplace activity. (There may be
differences in hiring and firing procedures on account of civil
service, but some unionized private companies aren't very different in
that regard.

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

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

Among other things:

1) No pornography.
2) Illegal pornography will be turned over to the police.
3) No harassment (per sexual harassment standards).
4) No non-work related material (doesn't apply in the library).
5) No release of private or restricted information.
6) Compliance with policy on inter-dept communications (doesn't
apply in the library).
7) Compliance with various technical rules to protect system

> 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 are restrictions on EVERYTHING in this world. A building has to
comply with zoning and fire codes. A private building open to the
public (ie a store or restaurant) must comply with further

None the less, within the law, owners of property, BOTH government or
private, may enact their own rules of conduct and procedure within
their properties. Years ago (before the laws), a governmentn director
banned smoking in his dept, for example. Certain attire may be
required, for example.

Indeed, in some cases government employees have more restrictions than
private employees, such as poll workers and cops showing neutrality
while on duty during an election.

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

It has EVERYTHING to do with what is SAID. If I threaten to kill you,
you can have me arrested and convicted for making threats. Other
statements can result in conviction for disorderly conduct or
harassment. If I libel or slander you, you can sue me for damages.

> Regulating/restricting the _content_ of speech has very high barriers
> to overcome.
> Regulating/restricting the _form_ of speech faces far, _far_ lower
> barriers.

The barriers are not as high as you think.

Further, many argue (I don't quite agree) that regulating the form of
speech effectively limits the content of speech. For instance, some
demand that free speech be allowed in shopping malls (which are
private property) because the malls are the "new Main Street". Courts
have been mixed on that. Many advocates argue that standing on a
corner handing out leaflets (a very classic form of free speech) has
so little impact that they should be allowed stronger forms of speech.

>> [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). ...
>> administrative convenience is given much weight in the courts.

Pat's position is 100% correct and a good view of it.

> [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]

I agree -- this shows that sometimes restricting religion is
actually restricting free speech and art and culture. A heck
of a lot of classic art and music was religious oriented.

The Philadelphia schools had an open access policy for after school
activities. The choir happened to be school students and led by a
school employee (on her own time) but they did African American gospel
singing. They claimed it was cultural. They claimed that since no
school money was involved and the school had an open policy their
choir should be allowed. The courts ruled against it as being
religion practiced in schools. I don't think anybody in the school
objected, rather it was external ACLU types who brought a lawsuit.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Did the court actually put the choir
out of business? It sounds to me like it did. Did the choir try going
the 'free association' direction as the one did in Chicago? That is to
say, pick up their music and other belongings (and since it was after
school hours) simply skip the premises to do their thing? The ACLU
would have probably had a hissy fit if they had done that, or tried to
do it. And you see, the 'joke', if you want to call it that, flies
back squarely into the faces of the ACLU types. I thought almost
_everyone_ knew that a _huge_ amount of the world's greatest classical
music and its composers, Bach, Mendelssohn, Handel, Mozart, others,
based much of their work on religious themes. And other than the Bible
-- the first place winner for much classical music -- who comes in
second place? None other than William Shakespeare, i.e. 'Romeo and
Juliet' and others from Felix Mendelssohn for example. 'tis a real
shame the ACLU has to act so puritanical so much of the time. PAT]

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