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Federal Judge Rules That Former High School Student Can Proceed With Lawsuit Over Facebook Page

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Katherine Evans, then a high school senior and an honor student, repeatedly clashed with her English teacher, Sarah Phelps, over assignments. To express her frustration, she created a Facebook page that criticized her teacher entitled “Ms. Sarah Phelps is the worse teacher I’ve ever had” and invited her classmates to post their own comments. While some students joined in with negative comments of their own, other students defended their teacher and after a few days, Evans took the page down. Nevertheless, two months later school officials suspended Evans for three days, arguing that she was “cyberbullying” Phelps.

In response, Evans filed a lawsuit against the former principal of her former school, Pembroke Pines Charter High School. The suit specifically requests that her suspension be expunged from her disciplinary record. Furthermore, she is also seeking a nominal fee for the principal’s alleged violations of her First Amendment rights, as well as the payment of her legal fees.

However, the former principal, Peter Bayer, asked that the case be dismissed. Nevertheless, Magistrate Judge Barry L. Garber recently denied Mr. Bayer’s petition and ruled that Evans’ can proceed with her lawsuit. One of Evans’ lawyers, Maria Kayanan, an associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida recently stated:

"This is an important victory both for Evans and Internet free speech because it upholds the principle that the right to freedom of speech and expression in America does not depend on the technology used to convey opinions and ideas."

Evans is now 19-years-old and a sophomore at the University of Florida.