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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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  • by aurelito (566884) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @02:16AM (#15399703)
    I can't imagine things have changed drastically since I graduated from high school four years ago. Our staff was afflicted with the worst type of technology paranoia. They couldn't really grasp the size of the internet; they could only understand electronic media as analogous to print, which -- given the popularity of "the internet" meant that publishing something unflattering about your school on the web was (to them) tantamount to taking a full page ad in the New York Times. These people _are_ bullies! They're afraid of the internet, so they'll compensate with administrative brawn.
  • by iamhassi (659463) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @02:30AM (#15399753) Journal
    "Places of business impose all kinds of restrictions on employees. Owners of property impose restrictions on trespassers."

    sure, but with a business you're always welcome to quit and work somewhere else. Can't really do that with school.

    And trespassers usually aren't trespassing when they're no longer on the property.

    This kid posted this stuff outside of school. What's the harm, really? The school's just going to have hundreds of other rebellious teens doing the same thing now, they going to expell them all?

    "If you read the quote, in legal terms there is an implicit threat..."

    um, if you read the article they have quotes from the police saying the school was not being threatened and that the kid did not post anything illegal.

    I'd hate to be the school if the kid can get a lawyer, could be a good pro bono case for a young lawyer trying to get a name for himself.

  • by Zaphod2016 (971897) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @02:30AM (#15399755) Homepage

    I read from TFA:

    ...Did you ever stop to think this will start a community backlash? The kids at Columbine did what the did because they were bullied. ...

    I thought to myself: yeeeesh, bad analogy warning.

    Then I came and read your post, and suddenly I was very nervous.

  • by DoddyUK (884783) <doddyukNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @02:57AM (#15399842) Homepage
    Not in the UK. The students often have much more rights than the teachers. As a result, in some schools the teachers are powerless to effectively punish bad behaviour or expel pupils since the parents will use sort of Human Rights crap, which makes the local education authority overturn the decision, which in turn means that the school is stuck with the little bugger. And people wonder why the education system is in a mess nowadays.
  • by egarland (120202) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:00AM (#15399852)
    Schools impose all kinds of restrictions on students. Places of business impose all kinds of restrictions on employees. Owners of property impose restrictions on trespassers.

    Schools are government bodies and attendance is mandatory. All children in this country who don't have the means to attian an alternate education are forced to be subjected to public school's rules. That makes your exmampeles irrelivant. The appropriate analogous situation would be prison. We do not allow prisons to remove inmates free speech rights, why would we let schools.

    This is legal. Schools are allowed to have dress codes. Schools are allowed to decide what constitutes "non-disruptive" activity to the learning environment.

    These things are pseudo-legal and only involve behavior while within the walls of the school. To extend the schools reach to everything a student does all the time is pretty obviously wrong. You wouldn't think it was right for schools impose a dress code on kids when they were at home would you?

    Some people still don't get Columbine. The lesson there is trying to suppress issues and make them go away quietly is exactly the wrong thing to do. It makes things worse. The great thing is that lots of people did learn the lesson and started to listen to kids who didn't think everything was just perfect in their schools. Sadly this seems to be a school that has forgotten the lesson and is comfortable insisting students shut up and pretend everything is great.
  • by E8086 (698978) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:03AM (#15399860)
    Being from NJ I'm outraged about this, and I though Plainfield was one of those rich towns where the kids always got what they wanted and no one ever got more than a day detention, maybe that's South Plainfield.

    What's up with schools and a fear of anything electronic these days?
    Force the kids into ibooks/laptops and expel/charge with computer trespass the ones who take the time to "explore" them. During a recent multi-day "field trip" my sister's class was banned from having anything electronic, but only 15 or so years ago I remember being encouraged to bring my GameBoy, even the teacher took part in our lunch time Tetris gaming. And anyone who used a "computer" to type their report got an automatic A, A+ if you added clipart/pictures.

    Yes, electronic toys are much more common now and there should some limits on their use, can't be used all the time. Those of us in our mid 20s grew up with our games and were mostly able to impose our own limits and balance how long we played(weekend) and how much time we spent on work(non-weekend). Have kids these days lost that ability?

    I once heard that there are two types of people who get involved in the administration of schools(not the teachers), those who really care about the kids and and those on a power trip(who would never be taken seriously by us rational adults)

    If you mess with the 1st Amendment you will lose.
  • by Nightspirit (846159) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:04AM (#15399863)
    I don't think I would be able to take it. Heck, one of my friends was a genius creative writer, chose macabre topics (murder, dissection, etc) and would hand out his writtings at school. Today he would be expelled. And who hasn't joked around about wanting a bomb threat to be called in so you could go home early? Now just talking about it would likely get you expelled.

    It would be like going to a prison camp, being afraid of what to do, how to act, and what to say for fear of suspension and expulsion.

    Thankfully my school had a program where you could go to community college instead of taking high school classes, so I didn't even spend my last two years at my highschool.
  • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tob (7310) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:26AM (#15399917)
    I find depriving a student of his 1st ammendment rights or his education not in his "best interest."


    Actually it is. There's nothing that will teach students the importance of civil liberties the way a case like this does.

    In my high school there was an official school paper (De Tand) that toed the party line. Students started producing their own paper(Bernrode Actueel), but after some criticism of teachers were forbidden to hand them out in school. They just started handing them out just outside the school gates. A few years later Bernrode Actueel replaced De Tand, and to the best of my knowledge it still has that place, 20 years later.

    Stuff like that has taught me a lot about the world in a setting that is relatively safe.

    Regards,
    Tob
  • by Trifthen (40989) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:32AM (#15399927) Homepage
    I paraphrase, you quote out of context; to each his own, I guess.

    In either case, flying off the handle and jumping directly to expulsion doesn't even address the problem of an implied threat. At best, it removes the "problem", at worst, it exacerbates the issue. Maybe some counseling to make the kid think he's at least got the school's respect? Maybe they could pull the old, "Hey, we're just following the rules... we really are sorry. I'm sure there are more constructive ways to criticize the system. Would you like to attend a PTA meeting and see how this stuff works?"

    There is such a thing as basic human decency. Yeah, the Columbine kids were dicks ot the highest order. Sure, this kid made a giant mistake in invoking their names. Think about his age, though. Was he even in elementary school when Columbine happened? Does he really understand the impact? Haven't you ever gotten so frustrated you just shouted out the most shocking thing you could remember in attempt to make an impact?

    Here's an anecdote. Back in college, we got some new network administrators that were being asses about running services on the network, and were continuously port scanning to find offenders. I was on the college's webteam, so I had apache running, and got flagged. They told me to shut down. I told them, "How many people have to die before you notice I make the school's damn website, so I need a development system!?" Or something to that effect, I don't remember and it was quite a while ago. This was of course after they had taken away our keys to the lab we used to make the website, and imposed many other arbitrary elements that did not apply to previous years.

    Did I have any intention of hurting anyone? No. Was I pissed and just as equally an ass for reacting to their prodding? Yes. Could both of us handled the situation in a better manner? Hell yes. The point here, is that had they respected the students that they depended on, and I respected their abilities as administrators, there would have been no cause for frustration, and nobody would have felt bullied or threatened.

    People have their foibles, especially teenagers. I for one, am glad the admins and I later had a discussion and came to a mutual agreement, where I also apologized for blowing-up. Could they have expelled me instead? Maybe, but only if they were trying to prove some point.
  • Happened to me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by delirium of disorder (701392) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:36AM (#15399943) Homepage Journal
    I was expelled from an Illinois public school for an online speech related issue as well. I set up a web (cgi) based proxy at home, and then informed students at school that it could be used to get around the school filter's censorship of the web. You can read about what happened here:
    http://www.textfiles.com/uploads/incident.txt [textfiles.com]

    The public school system is used to maintain social control, not educate. No one will stand up for the free speech rights of young people, and these rights are necessary for an informed and free society. The only solution is abandon compulsory education. Kids would be better off without being forced to go. Access to public Libraries would allow them to read; (at my school "unauthorized reading material" was banned). Libraries or homes would also give us free uncensored access to the Internet. Many leaders in unions, business, and non-profits are more then willing to hold workshops and lectures for high school aged kids. Their real world experience could replace incompetent teachers. There is nothing wrong with using public resources to teach young people, but forcing kids to spend their days being coerced into memorizing minutia, and detaining or expelling anyone with the capability for independent thought, that just further perpetuates the sort of passive obedience that makes American workers and consumers so easily manipulated.
  • by JayBees (124568) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:52AM (#15399980)
    Hopefully the Plainfield School District will learn from the folly of the nearby Oceanport School District [slashdot.org] and end this before they, too, are forced to settle out of court with the student and his family for an exorbitant amount of money that would have been better spent on books and teachers.

    I actually was a student in the Oceanport School District not all that long ago, and lived not all that far from Plainfield; let me tell you, there's nothing unusual about these towns at all. They're your average run-of-the-mill suburbs. I point out just how normal these towns are to underscore that this kind of free-speech-violating-bullshit can and will happen everywhere unless we actually shout and scream and go out of our way to stop it from happening.
  • Same Here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shish (588640) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @04:24AM (#15400047) Homepage
    Our high school had a student-run newspaper, run anonymously by students who were fed up with the bias in the teacher-run one -- one of the reporters was caught and threatened with expulsion unless the school was allowed to look over the paper and approve it before publication (which was agreed to, as long as all stories were still available in full on the website [saph.co.uk] (seems to be down due to web host issues. web mania suck [web-mania.co.uk] btw.)). Then they threatened to expel unless the editors made themselves known to senior staff (which was agreed to). Then they threatened to expel unless the paper was stopped entirely, which it eventually was :-(
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LegendLength (231553) <legendlength AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @04:27AM (#15400053)
    So i could publicly accuse my hypothetical school of anything online? (does the media matter? newspaper, sign on freeway overpass), and no matter how bad the slur you would not expel me?
  • by MadMacSkillz (648319) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:44AM (#15400228) Homepage
    I work at a high school as a Network Administrator and I have three things to say.

    1. The school can't suspend a student for what they say in a blog, UNLESS the student was using a school computer during school time to do the blog. If he wasn't, they can't probably legally do anything unless the student's charges are disprovable, in which case they could sue him for libel, maybe.

    2. It IS true that schools do NOT fully understand the Internet and they ARE afraid of it. In many cases they are overreacting to issues such as kids talking to each other on myspace. But part of the reason for that is that if a kid were to get into trouble outside of school because of something they read or did on myspace on a school computer, the parents would attempt to sue the school. Folks are really quick to point blame the schools for their kids making stupid decisions.

    3. It's popular to hate schools and teachers here on slashdot, and I didn't really think too highly of my high school education either, but really most of the people I work with care about their jobs, and they're good people. I feel sorry for them, because they teach all the students - not just the bright, well behaved ones but also the obnoxious surly defiant unthankful disrespectful teens who think they know everything and don't care about anyone but themselves. They know that this stage of life is notorious for testing boundries and rebelling against authority. And they come into work each day and do the best they can, most of the folks. Most of the people here on slashdot couldn't do their job for a week without running home and crying into their huggy pillow. Blame the curriculum, or blame the bad teachers, but please don't lump all teachers into that category. Seeing posts saying all teachers suck get moderated high makes those of us here who are mature just sorta shake our heads. Slashdot readers and mods will argue for logic in one sentence and fail to apply it in the next.

  • Re:Happened to me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuperFunFunFun (936608) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:14AM (#15400296)
    O think we need to take a long hard look at the mindset of some of these people in charge of schools these days. Perhaps they are taking things a bit more seriously than they really need to. The problem is how do you deal with a system that has more in comment with the penal system than the education system. My solution has been simple, send the kids to private school. The last thing I need is one of my kids lives being ruined over a spat in the cafeteria or by calling the wrong teacher a name. School has always been preparation for life - and I think we've given the schools way too much power over the kids. These people can't touch your kids if they are not enrolled.
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RockModeNick (617483) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:26AM (#15400330)
    My HS, back in the mid to late 90's when I was in HS, had a policy of disciplining students for fighting even if they were not on school grounds at the time. Not that there were any reports of this, because both students are always punished the same, even in CLEAR cases of self defence, or even if one kid just lays there like a slug and lets the other guy beat him.
  • by GeniusLoci (977031) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:31AM (#15400338)
    Frankly, this kind of thing happens all the time. High Schools are becoming less an institution of learning and more an institution of mass propaganda, control, and, dare I say it? tyranny. In the country school I hail from, there are less than a thousand students, and almost ten employees at the school whose sole purpose is to keep the 200 students at a time who are at lunch under firm control. If I had a dollar for every time a "Nazi" as we call them told me to take off my presription glasses because of their tint (to reduce glare due to hours in front of a computer screen daily), I would most certainly not be pinching pennies to buy a car that fits the school parking lot specs. Recently, a pair of freshmen were suspended for two weeks for alleged homosexual promiscuity that managed to find its way to the net. As for the students being harrassed because of the closed minded opinions towards anybody who isn't straight and narrow, we more frequently get treated to disciplinary actions due to our responses in self-defense than those who harrass us (Even though there's a "Zero Tolerance" policy towards harrassment in our school manual).
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Who235 (959706) <secretagentx9 AT cia DOT com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:37AM (#15400351)
    Yes, in theory they should only be able to sanction you for what happens at school. in theory communism works - IN THEORY.

    When I was in high school, a mere twelve or thirteen years ago, I was suspended for a party I had when my parents were out of town because it was rumored that there was (gasp) some marijuana there.

    To their credit, my parents went to bat for me, saying it was none of the school's goddamned business what I did outside of school hours. They were royally pissed off at me, but they understood that the school's underlying premise was flawed and stupid.

    To make a long story short, the suspension was cut in half as a compromise.

    If the system wants to fuck you, it will find some excuse. It's a lesson I learned young, and a lesson that kid in New Jersey is learning now. I feel sorry for him, and I hope it turns out well for him. Hopefully the media coverage will cow the school enough that they back down, but they will probably find some absurd reason to press on.
  • by wvitXpert (769356) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:39AM (#15400360)
    When I was in High School I was given an Internet Exeptable Use Policy that I had to have my parents sign. The document, besides all the normal stuff, contained a section that said that I would not view inapropriate material in or out of school (thats not word for word, but thats what it boiled down to). My mother refused to sign it, and went to the head of the school board. In the end she crossed out the offending sentence and initialed it. At the time I thought she was being crazy. I thought the text was just an oversight, but now I see it being used against students and I'm glad my mom did what she did.
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WgT2 (591074) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:09AM (#15400436) Journal

    Yeah, I used to teach... used to.

    This kind of non-thinking is one of the reasons I wanted to leave the field.

    Seems these administrators are not too different from the rest.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:14AM (#15400455) Homepage
    no, all this takes is parents willing to stand up for their kids instead of acting like the onther 900 unattentive soccer mom's and SUV dad's.

    I personally did this for my child, she was to be suspended for "pushing" and after talking to her and her friends and who was involved (I.E. I Did the principals job for him) I informed my daughter to ignore the suspension notice and gave verbal notice to the principal that I will not honor his suspension request and I will bring lawyers into it if he chooses to ignore me.

    She does not have a suspension on her record, Another fight of mine to inspect her record for errors once a year, and she recieved an apology from the principal.

    You can not treat the people that run the schools as professionals because they typically are not. They shoot from the hip and make broad assumptions in order to make it a very easy day for them. Teachers typically do not give a rats ass about teaching and the administrators simply get "annoyed" when something is brought up to them for attention. Many cases of hallway mugging and other incidents come home with the kids, the teachers care less that it is happening so I did 2 things. 1- teach my child to defend herself very effictively. 2- she is going to a private school for the rest of her grade school time.

    Public schools in America = lowest quality education you can possibly get for your child. Yes there are exceptions of teachers that do care and make a difference but they are outnumbered by the crappy ones 20 to 1 and it is getting worse as the years go by. EVERYONE remembers the teacher that was retiring that year. You did nothing in his/her class. It was either nothing but movies or "self guided study" and the tests were all open book.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:34AM (#15400531)
    Excellent post. I teach math and computer science in high school and agree wholeheartedly. So many Slashdotters who spew bile towards public schools were probably intelligent, motivated, and (possibly) well-behaved students, and would have been even without the rigid strucutre imposed by schools.

    Unfortunately, the majority of students are not this way - even my AP class has kids who are very smart but still lazy, undisciplined, stubborn, unmotivated, and/or more interested in gaming and browsing the web than doing things that could be considered "educational". And in my programming classes, this isn't because I force them to write programs that are repetitive and boring; we do games, things with graphics, have days off where I play LAN games with them, etc. At that age, and with parents that spoil them ridiculously, many of them just don't care or have no self-discipline.

    The majority of kids in high school are not mature enough to take responsibility for their own education, and the system is tailored to them because it has to be. It's unfortunate that the better kids can't get the freedom that they deserve. But don't blame teachers (many of whom bust their butt, day in and day out) for the way things are. Good students grow up into smart people and assume that schools are full of kids just like them, and that's nowhere near reality.
  • by crawling_chaos (23007) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:42AM (#15400574) Homepage
    Public schools in America = lowest quality education you can possibly get for your child. Yes there are exceptions of teachers that do care and make a difference but they are outnumbered by the crappy ones 20 to 1 and it is getting worse as the years go by. EVERYONE remembers the teacher that was retiring that year. You did nothing in his/her class. It was either nothing but movies or "self guided study" and the tests were all open book.

    This was not my experience in public school. In fact, I received a generally excellent education and attended a private college where I did just fine keeping up with the students who had attended exclusive private schools for their pre-college work. In fact, with the Advanced Placement credits I had earned, I entered with nearly a semester of college credit.

    I also was taught by two retiring teachers. Both changed nothing in their grading policiees or teaching methods in their respective final years. Hell, my physics teacher actually enjoyed teaching that he applied to for an exemption to the mandatory retirement which was never processed as he managed to die over the summer vacation after I graduated.

    There. Now we have dueling anecdotes, which is one reason that anecdotal arguments prove nothing. I learned that in a public high school logic class.

  • by kannibal_klown (531544) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:53AM (#15400640)
    Back when I was in school they request the parents all sign a document before each school year. It said that they would neither let us ever drink alchohol nor drink any alcohol in front of us, even during holidays.

    It wasn't mandatory, but when the school directory (phone listings of teachers and students) were handed out at the beginning of the year it indicated who had signed the document and who hadn't.

    My parents thought it was stupid. They'd both immigrated here from Poland so a kid trying a sip of wine on Christmas wasn't taboo there. Likewise, why shouldn't they be able to drink wine during Christmas or their anniversary because of the flipping school?!?

    Honestly, if I were that guy's parent I'd find the best lawyers I could.
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Roody Blashes (975889) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:47AM (#15401050) Homepage Journal
    Frankly, if I ever saw one of these shitheads that seems to like to pick on kids, I'd walk up and kick him in the nuts...

    Holy crap, you're like the Bruce Willis of the World Wide Web. I'll bet you're a big tough man talking the talk before he walks the walk rather than an obese, smelly, poorly-dressed nerd with no social life and twig-like, pasty limbs.

    Please, make some more credible threats of violence. You just don't see things like this on the WWW. It's so novel!
  • Absolutely NOT (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gr8Apes (679165) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:58AM (#15401162)
    I have not seen the blog --- did he write any libel (sp) information about people? If that is the case I could see that as grounds for expulsion. If he said his math teacher was a XYZ and said math teacher is not...


    Actually, I would say none of those activities are grounds for expulsion. Lawsuits, maybe, by the math teacher, but not expulsion.

    What's next? Kid cuts in front of their english teacher in the grocery store line and that teacher gets them expelled for it?

    Schools should only have jurisdiction over students when on their grounds or in their care, such as at school functions off-campus. Otherwise, it's not their problem nor their business.
  • Re:Dumbasses (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jusdisgi (617863) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @11:21AM (#15402507)

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

    So? Should the school be able to suspend or expell him for drinking outside school? Should they suspend a student who asks them to?

    The former policy would leave the school with no students, while the latter would be extremely unpopular with parents and teachers, given that lots of misguided students would ask for such treatment, to their own detriment.

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