Third Circuit Panels Rule Differently on MySpace Parody Cases
By Abby Lauer – Edited by Alissa Del Riego
Layshock v. Hermitage School District, No. 07-4465 (3d Cir. Feb. 4, 2010)
Snyder v. Blue Mountain School District, No. 08-4138 (3d Cir. Feb. 4, 2010)
Two different Third Circuit panels handed down seemingly contradictory decisions last week after considering whether offensive parody profiles of school principals created by students using MySpace outside of school were protected by the First Amendment.
In Layshock v. Hermitage School District, a unanimous, three-judge panel upheld the district court’s decision in favor of the student, holding that the offensive MySpace profile he created in the principal’s name was protected free speech under the First Amendment. The court based its decision on the fact that the student had created the profile off school grounds and had not substantially disrupted the school with his behavior.
By a vote of 2-1, a different three-judge panel upheld a district court’s decision against the plaintiff student in Snyder v. Blue Mountain School District. The court in Snyder held that the student’s vulgar parody profile of the principal was not protected free speech under the Constitution, and therefore the School District had a right to suspend the student. The court emphasized that the suspension was appropriate because the school had well-founded reason to believe that the student’s parody profile would cause substantial disruption.