default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Law firm threatens to sue Lodi Unified School District over social media policy

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Monday, August 12, 2013 3:19 pm

A San Francisco attorney has threatened to sue the Lodi Unified School District over its controversial social media policy.

Attorney Thomas R. Burke, from the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, sent a letter to Lodi Unified Superintendent Dr. Cathy Nichols-Washer and the seven school board members on Monday, claiming that the social media policy violates the First Amendment.

The policy, adopted in March, has raised opposition from some students and parents at high schools within the district. Intended to address bullying by students on Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, the policy allows teachers, coaches and administrators to suspend students from sports or school clubs if they electronically communicate something that is deemed “inappropriate.”

“Because of the policy’s glaring constitutional infirmities and clear conflict with state and federal law, if litigation becomes necessary, a court is highly likely to invalidate the policy and to hold those responsible for its enforcement personally financially liable for violating clearly established law,” Burke wrote in his letter to Lodi Unified officials. “We hope such legal action is unnecessary.”

According to the letter, Burke represents the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Student Press Law Center. Jana Van Os, whose daughter was suspended and later reinstated to her cheerleading post at Lodi High due to an image she posted on Instagram, contacted the ACLU over the policy.

Additionally, members of The Bruin Voice, the student newspaper of Bear Creek High School in North Stockton, contacted the Student Press Law Center for a legal opinion.

Van Os and Bear Creek students Jacob Williams and Hanna Jobrack told Lodi Unified school trustees last week that they consider the social media policy illegal for several reasons. They maintained that the policy is too vague, and it isn’t clear who decides what comments are “inappropriate.”

“While the policy may be a well-intentioned effort to discourage bullying, it sweeps far too broadly and impermissibly has the government acting as a 24-hour-a-day censor of student speech,” Burke said in his letter to the school district.

“As currently written, the policy applies to virtually all online communications by district students, regardless of whether they occur off campus or after school hours,” Burke said. “It reaches beyond constitutionally unprotected and unlawful behavior and prescribes extremely broad class of speech ... ”

Lodi Unified board members Ron Heberle and George Neely said they can’t comment on Burke’s letter to the school district because litigation was threatened.

However, Neely said he anticipates that the social media policy will be discussed at the Aug. 20 board meeting.

Trustee Ruth Davis declined to comment, saying she likes to defer issues to administrators until the administrators bring issues to the board.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

More about

More about

More about

Reference Links

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don't pretend you're someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don't insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.

Welcome to the discussion.


Popular Stories


Should graduations return to the Grape Bowl?

Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

Total Votes: 204


Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists