Court/Judicial body: Tribunal administratif de Clermont-Ferrand 2ème chambre
Citation: Tribunal administratif de Clermont-Ferrand 2ème chambre Jugement du 6 avril 2006
Date: 6 April 2006
Instrument(s) cited: Article 31-1 of Decree No 85-924 of the disciplinary board code (notifying a guardian if the student being disciplined is a minor) Article 3 of Decree No 85-924 of the disciplinary board code (the rights and duties of each member of the school community; freedom of information and freedom of expression, respect for principles, duty of tolerance and respect for others, duty of protection against aggression and of tolerance, and student responsibility for their actions)
Background: A 14-year-old student at the college was expelled after publishing defamatory and offensive content targeting his teachers and school mates on his personal website. The ownership of the blog was undisputed. Also undisputed is the fact the blog reached into the school due to other students accessing the site on campus. The child’s mother sued the school on behalf of her son claiming his punishment was harsh and a violation of his freedom of expression recognised in Article 3 of Decree no. 85-924. The school also cited Article 3 of Decree no. 85-924 stating Erwin S. violated respect for principles, duty of tolerance and respect for others, and student responsibility for their actions.
Issue and resolution: Freedom of expression. Whether a student may be expelled for publishing offensive and insulting content targeting teachers and schoolmates on a personal website. The Court ruled that although the content likely was disruptive, the student’s post did not cause any physical harm. The Court therefore ruled that expelling the student was not an appropriate punishment.
Court reasoning: The court took note of what it called the ‘unquestionably stupid and vulgar rantings’ of the expelled student’s defamatory and harmful remarks. It also recognised that under the disciplinary board’s code, the board had the right to sanction the student as the author of the site. However, the court found it key that no physical violence was caused, it was an isolated incident and irrelevant that the site was created off campus. The court also found it relevant that the child was otherwise an excellent student and had no previous disciplinary incident. The court overturned the expulsion but indicated that suspension would have been justified.
Link to full judgement: http://www.legalis.net/spip.php?page=jurisprudence-decision&id_article=1615