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Student Faces Expulsion for Blog Post 1045

Posted by samzenpus
from the complaining-only-makes-things-worse dept.
ThPhox writes "A student in the Plainfield School District in New Jersey is facing expulsion from the school district for a post made on his personal blog during non school hours. From the article: "A 17-year-old student who posted on his blog site that he was being bullied and threatened by the Plainfield School District will face an expulsion hearing this week, a local attorney said.""
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Student Faces Expulsion for Blog Post

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  • Compared to overseas (Score:5, Informative)

    by ajdlinux (913987) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:14AM (#15399699) Homepage Journal
    What is it with Americans and expulsion? Here in Australia if someone gets expelled it is because they have done something absolutely crazy that in America probably would have them in prison or something like that, e.g. bashing up other students. Even something like swearing in front of the teacher, depending on the school, may only get you suspended.
  • When off campus however is where the arguments are coming up these days

    An example:

    Yohnka said the courts have put strict limitations on students' freedom of speech within the schools. But districts need to be mindful of students' rights when they are outside the school, saying there are school districts overstepping their boundaries by trying to discipline students for behavior outside school hours.

    A Pennsylvania student won a case that involved a suspension for his private blog that critiqued his principal's dress habits, speech and other matters.

    "Ultimately the principal attempted to punish him, the kid ended up challenging the suspension," Yohnka said. "The court reversed the suspension saying essentially the kid had the right to comment in any way anyone else would outside of the school.

    From: http://www.webstreetcafe.com/news/4_1_JO23_FREESPE ECH_S1.htm [webstreetcafe.com]

    Everything he did he did outside of school. He used a computer from home. He used an account he created from home what was clear it was a personal activity," Yohnka said.
  • Re:Hilarious (Score:2, Informative)

    by fizzfaldt (917641) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:42AM (#15399797)
    "a student can basically walk into class and beat the crap out of his teacher and still not get expelled"

    A similar situation happened in my school.
    A fight broke out between two students and the teacher held one back.
    The student turned around. He looked at the teacher, paused to recognized him, and then elbowed him in the face.
    He knocked out a couple of the teacher's teeth. This caused the first (and only) day this teacher ever missed a class in his 35+ year career.

    The student was not expelled. In fact, IIRC the student was only punished for the fight with the student. Elbowing the teacher was not brought up.

    The teachers responded with a strike, and some students staged a walkout to support them.
    (Of course the rest of the students then walked out to have a day off.)


    If the student was violent, or at least made actual (or veiled) threats to the school or otherwise I could understand the punishment.
    As it is, I disagree with their punishment of the student for his posts online.
    The information garnered from TFA didn't sound like there was any threat at all.
    Unfortunately it seems that we have too many school officials (and this carries on into politics) who are too scared of anyone who doesn't conform.
    'What if the threat was real and I did nothing about it?'
    They start to see threats that aren't even there.
    Anyone who is a little different starts to set of these alerts in their heads; he simply brought himself to the attention of some of these people.

    I imagine the school in question doesn't really foster free thinking and speech.
    Perhaps if it did, he wouldn't have felt it necessary to post what he did online.
    (That was the point if I understood the article.)
  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:42AM (#15399798) Homepage Journal
    I'm curious. Are school districts bound by the first amendment in the United States?

    If the district accepts ANY money from the federal government, yes.

    LK
  • by Malestyr (824045) <nemesis.the.dark@gmail.com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:45AM (#15399807)
    Hell, one kid was caught selling vodka, setting a dumpster on fire and melting the lid, smoking, selling pot and he got suspended. Three times. That wasn't enough to get an expulsion. Beating someone up is a week long suspension(annoyingly, so is fighting back.)
  • by Hamster Lover (558288) * on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:46AM (#15399812) Journal
    A student of a school sitting at his computer at home has a right, the right to free speech as outlined in the First Amendment. This right does not come at the discretion of the school, but by the Constitution and is the supreme law of the land. The school can't come along and say, "Sorry son, we don't like what you're saying", as it occured during his own time off school property. I am too lazy to Google it, but I am certain that every school that has tried to discipline a child for speech outside of school hours and on private property has failed. There was a recent case of a teenager from Alaska that the school attempted to discipline for holding a banner during the 2002 Winter Olmypic torch relay that read, "Bong hits 4 Jesus", but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision saying:

    "Public schools are instrumentalities of government, and government is not entitled to suppress speech that undermines whatever missions it defines for itself," Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote in the court's opinion.

    The court also cleared the way for Frederick to seek damages, saying Morse was aware of relevant case law and should have known her actions violated his rights.
    Courtesy of MSNBC.com. (OK, I did Google for that).

    The principal, Morse, was upset that the banner undermined the schools anti-drug message, among other things. The point being that a school, as a government entity, doesn't get to pick and choose what speech is permissible and what is not off of school property and not on school time.
  • by egarland (120202) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @04:17AM (#15399893)
    Actually, they're not required to go to school either. However, they're required to go to some sort of educational program. Homeschooling, private school, private tutor, etc.

    Those without the means to supply an alternative educational program (all require a significant investment of time and/or money) must attend public school. A majority of the population does not have the means and thus is required to go to public school.

  • Re:1st amendment... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25, 2006 @04:43AM (#15399956)
    Sure you can be arrested. Your action was reckless and endangered the lives of those in the theater (stampeded aren't fun for those who get trampled), free speech doesn't mean you can say anything you want. Well you can but words have consequences, and it's those potential consequences that can get you arrested.

    If I made a voice controlled bomb then saying the command to have it go off would also get me arrested, not for the words themselves but for what they caused (or may have caused if my bomb was a dud).
  • Re:Hilarious (Score:2, Informative)

    by NoodleSlayer (603762) <[ryan] [at] [severeboredom.com]> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @04:45AM (#15399961) Homepage
    You are full of shit and obviously didn't go to school in the Bay Area.

    Physical Violence against a teacher can be grounds for expulsion, and students have been expelled for threats of physical violence.

    Bringing a knife to school can get you suspended and/or expelled.
  • Here's his website (Score:5, Informative)

    by cliveholloway (132299) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @04:51AM (#15399976) Homepage Journal
    Warning, it's butt ugly [xanga.com] - seriously, instead of expelling him, they should send him to design classes.

    Talk about over reaction though. Why not just bug the police to bust his ass for underage drinking? If that's what the district really wants. Or, why not just take this to its logical conclusion and expell almost every teenager for, well, being a teenager.

  • Re:1st amendment... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25, 2006 @04:57AM (#15399992)
    Actually, screaming fire is most certainly an unprotected case. It is not simply disruption, it is likely to cause injury and death, as people will (in all expectation) stampede for the exits.
  • What a buncha bullshit assumptions to make...

    I've had more than my fair share of legal bullshit happen and I'm a above average University of Michigan student who got accepted to even better schools but couldn't afford to go.

    Don't paint everyone with your stereotypical brush.
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:56AM (#15400115) Homepage Journal
    Recently we had a story of a local student facing suit over his posting about his teacher. I figure that if schools cannot get to students on first amendment grounds they may follow the route of defamation of character if any names are mentioned in posting. The suit was eventually dropped but the threat was made known. Post something negative about a teacher and you can expect a bunch of grief.

    One other area brought up is that not only would the student have problems but as they are minors it is possible that the parents would have to bear financial responsibility.

    I wonder how long before public school students are no longer allowed to post on subjects that are not life threatening but school threatening like vouchers and such?

    Apparently not long...

    In Chicago, Community High School District 128 voted unanimously on Monday to require that all students participating in extracurricular activities sign a pledge agreeing that evidence of "illegal or inappropriate" behavior posted on the Internet could be grounds for disciplinary action.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:15AM (#15400152) Journal
    Well I guess i should admit that i went looking at his x(z?)anga site before making that post. Maybe you might come to the same conclusion [xanga.com] maybe not. Here is another by his sister? [xanga.com] Anyways, I dont think there is anyhting worht getting expelled over. But i do dougbt he would be any worse off.
  • by edumacator (910819) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:48AM (#15400241)

    Last thing they want to do is lose all that money they are going to in a clear-cut 1st amendment case....

    IMHO the school overreacted by trying to expel the kid. But I don't think the line is as clear as it might seem. The kids says, "I've been bullied by you." Then goes on to say the kids at Columbine did what they did because they were bullied by the school.

    So the school is reading that as a veiled threat. I think that is an overreaction, but schools are damned if they do, and damned if they don't. If this kid had gone on to actually take action, an extremely unlikely prospect, and the school had known about that post, the parents would have been screaming for the administration's heads.

    I am a teacher at a school that recently had a student post a "hit list" to his MySpace page and he was expelled. The difference was the threat was explicit. In this case I would have liked to have seen the administration talk to the kid and explain how his post could have been seen as a threat and worked with him on avoiding that potentially sticky situation in the future.

    Most schools do believe in free speech, and trust me, teachers take a whole lot of "free speech" from their students, but this case, at least in intent, isn't simply about free speech. It's about the administration overreacting to a possible veiled threat.

  • Re:Nothing New (Score:3, Informative)

    by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:46AM (#15400375) Homepage
    it has generally been held up by the courts as meaning the entire bill of rights applies as much to state and local governments as to federal.

    No it hasn't. For various reasons, the courts approach this on a right-by-right basis. They have not incorporated all of them (especially since we're really only talking about the first eight), and sometimes only have incorporated parts of them. It'd be accurate to say that most or nearly all of the guarantees in the Bill of Rights have been incorporated, but it's not accurate to say that the whole thing has been.
  • by chrismcdirty (677039) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:12AM (#15400446) Homepage
    I don't know if you've read his blog, but this kid definitely is not going to Harvard for schooling any time soon.
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:2, Informative)

    by jdbear (607709) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:20AM (#15400474)
    RTFM The kid did not threaten the school, or blatantly accuse them of anything. He discussed HIS FEELINGS. He wrote, and I quote, "I feel threatened by you," to which the District replied, that the district will take action if it believes there is a safety issue. The student has been suspened for 10 days, and is being forced to go through an Expulsion hearing. I'd say they are "taking action."

    If a student came to the office with a vague complaint of being threatened by a Teacher, with such a lame example, they'd be told to get over it. Why can the entire school system get by with being more "sensitive?"

    I FEEL that they are just a bunch of whining crybabies, and should be immediately fired and replaced by more responsible adults.

  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:5, Informative)

    by plague3106 (71849) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:27AM (#15400506)
    Slander, liable speech, defamation of character

    FWI, you can't be found guilty of any of these things unless the other party proves they were somehow harmed by the slander or liable speech. If they can't prove it, you can still say it, even though its not true.

    conspiracy

    I believe most conspircy laws state that you must go beyond talking; you actually have to take some step to executing your conspircy.

    Same goes for the infamous desire to yell fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire!

    Search Wikipedia for this; there are some interesting facts. FWIW, it shouldn't be the act of yelling fire that should be illegal; causing panic, wasting emergency responders' time, etc. is what should be illegal. I know, I'm splitting hairs, but I think its important to make the distinction so we don't undermine the right to free speech.
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:4, Informative)

    by plague3106 (71849) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:29AM (#15400516)
    Where did he threaten a Columbine-like incident?

    He correctly pointed out that, if you push (bully) people too far, they will snap and fight back, but there's nothing I've read that indicates he was feeling anywhere that frustrated.

    Maybe a poor analogy on his part (was the school really on his case everyday, making his life hell everyday?), but doesn't seem to be a threat to me.
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheGreek (2403) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:34AM (#15400534)
    If it really is a case of libel or slander, they should report it to the police. Police enforce the laws; not school districts.

    Police enforce criminal law.

    Libel and slander are torts and are thus the domain of ambulance chasers.
  • Re:Nothing New (Score:3, Informative)

    by Guppy06 (410832) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:57AM (#15400666)
    "Actually, public schools are generally local government institutions - and so should be completely unaffected by the constitutional ban on federal laws restricting the freedom of speach."

    Reaching for federalism in instances like this is a double-edged sword at best. State constitutions are generally much more liberal in protecting personal rights than the federal constitution. For example, being a New Jersey school, it's subject to:
    Every person may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right. No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.
  • Re:Nothing New (Score:2, Informative)

    by bubblesonx (962991) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:23AM (#15400877)
    Why do you find this unbelievable? The so-called liberals have absolutely no tolerance for anyone who doesn't tow their "political correctness" line.
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:1, Informative)

    by koreaman (835838) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:25AM (#15400898)
    Tuesday, May 02, 2006
            you are bully's. I feel threatened by you. if you don't like what you see here then do not come here its that simple. I'm pretty sure when you suspended Sam you brought her to tears, you are a bully and you make me sick. there's nothing you can do about us posting about parties we've been to and how much liquor we had or how much pot was smoked, the police need to do a better job, you are not the police. and how is it that you feel threatened what was said that was so threatening. I feel threatened by you, I cant even have a public web page with out you bullying me and telling me what has to be removed. where is this freedom of speech that this government is sworn to uphold? none of this is posted at school, its all posted from our home computers, and once we step foot into our homes we are not on school property any more. you are just power hungry, don't you ever think? did you stop to think that maybe this will make parents angry that you are bullying their children around? did you ever stop to think that maybe now you really are going to have a threat on your hands now that you have just pissed off kids for voicing their opinions? did you ever stop to think this will start a community backlash? The kids at Columbine did what they did because they were bullied. In my opinion you are the real threat here. None of us ever put in our xanga's that they were going to kill or bring harm to any one. we voiced our opinions. you are the real threat here. you are depriving us of our right to learn. now stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    dear plainfield school district 202:

                  i know you read this. and you suck. suspend me or what ever you would like to do. but this is my fuckin web site and i can put what ever i want on it. kinda goes with the first amendment. by suspending kyle again for his xanga you guys are pathetic and totally irrational. first amendment you fucks. freedom of speech. and who the fuck are you to say what some one can do from there own personal computer. one more thing kiss my ass.

    edit: this one is for you, and yes i have drank it and yes it was delicious!(come get me)
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:2, Informative)

    by phlinn (819946) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:59AM (#15401168)
    Ammendment 14, section 1:

    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law
  • by dgr9449 (560850) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:03AM (#15401197) Homepage
    There's been a lot of fuss and bother about this issue, but it this question (Do students enjoy Free Speech?) has already been decided. And been decided more than once.

    In fact, on such case was decided right here in Des Moines, Iowa, my home town.

    The Case was "TINKER v. DES MOINES SCHOOL DIST., 393 U.S. 503 (1969)" http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?c ourt=US&vol=393&invol=503 [findlaw.com]

    Let me quote a little of the decision:

    First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.

    Looks to me as if the school board in this case should apologize immediately. Maybe they can avoid the law suit I see on the horizon.

    For those of you too young to remember, or too lazy to read the case notes: A couple of High School students wore black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. The school suspended them. They sued. They took it to the Supreme Court which said it WAS a Free Speech Issue. The school lost, the kids won.

    Maybe the school board needs a refresher course in American History?

  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:3, Informative)

    by stonecypher (118140) <(stonecypher) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:24AM (#15401367) Homepage Journal
    FWI, you can't be found guilty of any of these things unless the other party proves they were somehow harmed by the slander or liable speech.

    Uh. This just isn't true. Libel [cornell.edu] does not require actual damages at all. (Slander [cornell.edu] does.) If I get up on a newspaper opinion poll and write about how much I think (insert politician here) is a (insult horrible lie here,) and it turns out I'm writing for a newspaper with 0 readers, I have still incorrectly defamed his character and I'm still liable for libel. (By the way, liable means "I am responsible for the outcome of these actions." There is no such thing as "liable speech." It's called libel. Please don't comment on the nature of a five letter law you can't even spell.) Libel requires only that the medium of conversation is lasting, which implies writing and covers well the internet.

    In fact, if what the kid says is false, then this is the textbook definition of libel.

    If they can't prove it, you can still say it, even though its not true.

    Did you know that giving false legal advice is a felony?

    I believe most conspircy laws state that you must go beyond talking; you actually have to take some step to executing your conspircy.

    Again, nonsense.

    If the feds get a wiretap warrant, and they hear you, Vinny and Guido (I'm sick of the terrorist metaphors; let's go back to the old trusty Italian Mob) plotting to knock over a bank, that's a conspiracy. The federal government is under no obligation to wait until you go bust out the guns; once there's intent, and once it can be established that what was being discussed wasn't humor or speculation, then it's real enough to be actionable (in practical terms, this involves agreeing to act at a specific time, date and on a specific location or target.)

    Search Wikipedia for this; there are some interesting facts.

    Here's a better thought: stop searching a community-written site for detail-oriented things like legal advice. There is no shortage of legitimate, correct and well-thought-out material on sites like law.cornell.edu, and there is no shortage of examples - particularly in law, but also elsewhere - of Wikipedia being essentially full of crap. By and on the whole, it's a fine, high accuracy reference, but it simply does not have the level of quality control to be used as a legal reference.

    FWIW, it shouldn't be the act of yelling fire that should be illegal; causing panic, wasting emergency responders' time, etc. is what should be illegal.

    Uh. The actual yelling of fire isn't what's illegal, it's the attempt to cause panic. Exactly what are you arguing with here?

    I know, I'm splitting hairs, but I think its important to make the distinction so we don't undermine the right to free speech.

    Yeah, welcome to 1904. The issue of intent as regards the nature of protection of free speech has been well settled in this country for more than a hundred years. Read a law book; I am not a lawyer, but I believe the appropriate precedent is the supreme court case Aikens v. State of Wisconsin [findlaw.com] (c194-195 1904.) Just because you can come up with a possible mistake doesn't mean the court hasn't long since handled it. Moreover, the hair you're attempting to split isn't at all germane in context.

    Clarance Darrow you are not.

    Moderators, remember the golden rule of moderation: do not mark something as insightful if you yourself cannot verify something as correct. Meta-moderators, unleash the hounds.
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:3, Informative)

    by nahdude812 (88157) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:36AM (#15401473) Homepage
    One form of irony involves word play. Another form has no reference to word play:

          1.
                      a. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.
                      b. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.
                      c. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect. See Synonyms at wit1.
          2.
                      a. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs: "Hyde noted the irony of Ireland's copying the nation she most hated" (Richard Kain).
                      b. An occurrence, result, or circumstance notable for such incongruity. See Usage Note at ironic.
          3. Dramatic irony.
          4. Socratic irony.

    That doesn't make this case ironic, it is merely a self-fulfilled statement, but you can have irony without words.
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:4, Informative)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yppupcinataS.> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:54AM (#15401657) Journal
    I got two weeks of in-school suspension when I was 16 for writing a letter to the editor of the local paper under my own name. Public school, etc, etc.

    It taught me an important lesson which is: don't write under your own goddamn name!

    Seriously. I don't condone what's happening here, but people put stuff out there under their own names that blows my mind. This is the freaking information age, okay? People are going to google you first thing, and they're going to read what you write, they're going to make opinions about it, and if you've not been careful, it's going to be your ass! The stuff is going to be viewed by people you're dating, people you're trying to work for, people who are trying to steal your identity...Don't put your name on it!

    It's not like you can't point people to your blog/writing if you want them to read it, and it's not like you can't put things out there to be read under a different name. But putting it out there under your own name, especially if you're a minor, is a bad idea.
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:5, Informative)

    by slashkitty (21637) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @11:41AM (#15402061) Homepage
    i know you read this. and you suck. suspend me or what ever you would like to do. but this is my fuckin web site and i can put what ever i want on it. kinda goes with the first amendment. by suspending kyle again for his xanga you guys are pathetic and totally irrational. first amendment you fucks. freedom of speech. and who the fuck are you to say what some one can do from there own personal computer. one more thing kiss my ass.

    edit: this one is for you, and yes i have drank it and yes it was delicious!(come get me) [image of miller lite]

    Well, he did admit to drinking and he did ask to be suspended.

    http://www.xanga.com/Heckler3672bro [xanga.com]

  • Re:bullies (Score:3, Informative)

    by stonecypher (118140) <(stonecypher) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @12:02PM (#15402287) Homepage Journal
    The difference is that, in general, the corporate world is allowed to throw you out on your ass for whatever reason they feel like. But a public school, as a government institution, must conform to the rights granted by the Constitution - which in this case means protecting this student's freedom of speech, as long as said speech doesn't impair the ability of students at the school to learn.

    Didn't read the article, huh?

    The school is reacting to what it mistakenly believes is a threat. The kid talks about how he feels bullied, then talks about how Columbine happened because those kids felt bullied too. It's an easy mistake to make. This has nothing to do with free speech or governmental obligation. This is a bunch of scared parents who think Little Timmy's about to shoot up the place, and who are trying to get him away from their children.

    Put down the drama stick and try reading what's actually going on.

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