Good question. The courts are not uniform in how they analyze such cases. This question raises the threshold issue of whether the material is considered on-campus or off-campus speech. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court wrote in its 2000 ruling in J.S. v. Bethlehem Area School District: “We hold that where speech that is aimed at a specific school and/or its personnel is brought onto the school campus or accessed at school by its originator, the speech will be considered on-campus speech.”
It would be difficult for school officials to justify regulating material a student creates at home and does not bring to school. However, if a student creates a Web site at home using his own computer but brings the material to school, then school officials could likely regulate it under the “substantial disruption” standard from the Supreme Court’s 1969 decision Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. This means that the material would be treated akin to an underground student newspaper school officials could regulate it if they could reasonably forecast that it would cause a substantial disruption or material interference with school activities. What is not clear is a situation where a student creates the material at home and never brings it to school, but other students bring it to school and freely distribute it. No case has explained this situation with any detail.
Students also should be aware that there are consequences to posting certain material even on their personal Web sites. If a student posts true threats online, the school may contact the appropriate authorities. If a student posts libelous material, he may be sued for defamation in court. For example, several teachers in Indiana sued a student in 1999 after he posted allegedly false information that harmed the teachers’ reputations.