Friday, January 21, 2011

Curriculum, online resources, and freedom of speech...when the three meet in court

U.S. Supreme CourtImage via WikipediaThis past Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal of a Massachusetts ruling on a school board's exclusion of web resources from a school curriculum guide regarding a long disputed genocide issue.

This case involves a curriculum guide released in 1999 as a response to a recently passed Massachusetts law which required the state board of education to develop recommendations on curricular material about genocide and human rights issues. The draft curriculum guide included a reference to the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish empire in 1915 and following years, and this immediately generated a request from a Turkish cultural group to add references to the "contra-genocide perspective."

The rejected appeal upholds the August decision that Massachusetts education officials did not violate public school students’ free speech rights in 1999 when they excluded sources that questioned the Armenian genocide. The original decision basically uses a "library metaphor" to argue its position:
...the removal of "contra-genocide" perspectives because of pressure from the Armenian community did not violate the First Ammendment because the websites constituted an element of the state curriculum, and not a "virtual school library." In other words, striking the information from the class was ruled to be the equivalent of taking one book off the course's suggested reading list, rather than removing the book from that school's library all together. (Education Week)
For more reading on this case see: