“Expulsion for Facebook Posting Invalid”
By Dean M. Beer, Esquire
According to a recent Hearing Officer decision in Illinois, a 17-year-old boy with ADHD, Bipolar Disorder and cognitive and executive functioning deficits behaved impulsively when he posted a threat on a Facebook site. The School District expelled the young man after having a Manifestation Determination hearing. During the Manifestation Determination meeting, the District found there was no link to the student’s disability, noting that since the student had to log onto Facebook, type a message, and send the message, then decided to instant message (IM) with another student, his action was not impulsive. Additionally, because the student had not seen the classmate that he threatened for six weeks prior to making the threat, the team concluded that he had planned his Facebook actions. The Hearing Officer annulled the student’s expulsion, reasoning that the student’s conduct was closely linked to his poor impulse control and that his disabilities would have prevented him from planning this conduct.
In the ever changing technological environment riddled with spontaneous and instantaneous interaction we are in, with computers, IM messaging, text and emails, students’ behaviors should be considered with specificity in relation to their disabilities, rather than generally. The Hearing Officer found the student’s poor executive functioning, mood swings and inability to self regulate – – all characteristics of his disability – – were directly and substantially related to sending the Facebook message. For parents of children with disabilities who have been disciplined for using IM messaging, text and emails, the conduct should be carefully considered to determine if it is specifically related to the child’s disability.
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