Citing First Amendment rights, Georgia’s highest court has struck down a state statute that criminalized “upbraiding, insulting, or abusing” a public school teacher, administrator, or bus driver in the presence of a student while on a school bus or school premises.
A parent had been charged under the statute after he reportedly boarded a bus and verbally abused the driver over the alleged bullying of his child by other students.
In the Oct. 31 ruling, the Georgia Supreme Court found that “the statute does not proscribe all speech that might be boisterous or disruptive,” the opinion says. Instead, the law “prohibits only that speech directed at public school officials which may be perceived as negative or unfavorable.”
The court said that the “practical effect” of the statute was that anyone “who dares to speak critically to school officials at any time in the presence of minors must leave the premises when so ordered by a school official or face arrest and prosecution.”
A version of this article appeared in the November 16, 2016 edition of Education Week as State High Court Tosses Ban on Verbal Abuse