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Education Your Rights Online

Sophomore Uses List Context; Cops Interrogate 404

High school is bizarre enough, but a private high school is an environment uniquely removed from reality. S. and G., two sophomores at such a school in one of the United States' hot technology corridors, put up a couple of private websites with their unflattering thoughts about the school experience. Last week those sites got them suspended for two days. Worse -- because he wasn't familiar with the distinction between perl's scalar and list context, S. now has a police record. Update: 03/14 10:49 PM by J : We had some database trouble in the last couple hours, but all the comments seem to be back... whew.

These two 15-year-old friends are well-spoken; self-described geeks, they choose their words deliberately, with a minimum of "um." I'm using their initials instead of names because they don't want more trouble than they're already in. Their school has rules against disparaging its reputation, and they have learned their lesson from last week -- so you won't learn from me who they are, or which school it is they go to.

Let's get the code out of the way here, as a public service to students everywhere thinking about putting up a website of their own. Every perl expression has a context: scalar or list. (And for the rabid purists among you, who will flame me if I don't mention these, the other possible contexts are boolean, void, and interpolative.)

Many operators behave differently depending on context: in this case, the backtick. The statement:

my($f) = `fortune`;

...puts the backtick operator in list context, so it returns a list, where each element is one line from the program's output.

S. wants to be a developer when he graduates; he certainly has the most important thing down, which is to always be exploring and learning new things. In the process of converting his website from PHP to perl for no especially good reason, he wrote the above line.

If he had written the code correctly:

my $f = `fortune`;

...the backtick operator would have been in scalar context, assigned its complete result to $f for printing, and you wouldn't be reading this sad story.

Last week, the administrators at his school just happened to take a look at his webpage when fortune pulled up this quote:

I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs of tennis socks, not my style at all, but that was what I was aiming for: If they think you're crude, go technical; if they think you're technical, go crude. I'm a very technical boy. So I decided to get as crude as possible. These days, though, you have to be pretty technical before you can even aspire to crudeness.
- Johnny Mnemonic, by William Gibson

Because only the first line about the shotgun was stored in $f and shown on the webpage, it wasn't immediately obvious that this was a quote.

Visions of kids with shotguns in Adidas bags must have gone through someone's head. The school went into a sort of a crisis mode. Later they would mention that this wouldn't have been an issue if there hadn't been school shootings elsewhere in the country just a week prior.

The sophomores were called down to the office separately for questioning, one at a time, each of them without being told the other had been there. Each of them separately explained that fortune is a unix program that returns random quotations, and each of them told me that the administrators scoffed. "You're saying all these big companies that use unix, like Sun, have this fortune program?"

I assume the staff knew better and was just trying to find holes in the kids' stories, because apparently they had reloaded the page dozens of times and, of course, had gotten a new quote each time. After being released, G. got in touch with their Advanced Placement Computer Science teacher, who is, it sounds like, one of the few authority figures working for the Light Side of the Force. Her explanation of fortune was, finally, believed.

But the police had been called anyway, just to be on the safe side.

The suspension portion of the kids' punishment, carried out last Thursday and Friday, was actually over a separate website, one whose domain name contained the school's name and the Fword. This is a word, by the way, which G. obviously typed in to register the domain but which he was too polite to use over the phone. By the time we hung up, he had me embarrassed for saying it.

The site was very private, all things considered. He and S. had only told a few friends. And they'd done their homework, going over the referer logs to see who knew about it, and making sure the search engines didn't index it. They even banned the school's proxy by IP. As G.'s father later said, "it was the analogue of students in middle school passing a note back and forth. It was never meant to be in the public eye."

But it was disparaging of the school and it was, after all, a publicly available website. That's against the rules. The two shared joint responsibility, so they were both suspended.

Personally, I think a school's job is to teach not just the three R's, but also participation as a citizen in our Republic. That may be more important. For a school to teach freedom as a dry document while crushing student dissent is a waste.

It's legal, of course. The First Amendment doesn't apply to private schools. They can make whatever rules they want. Rules like theirs are great for raising robots. But anyone who's going to make a difference in this world is going to have to be comfortable with laughing at authority.

Unfortunately, the message the administration is sending gets heard. When I asked G. what he thought about being suspended for venting about his school, he told me he just didn't want to fight it. He said he might have felt differently a year ago, but now, "I don't know if it's from brainwashing or just not wanting to get expelled, but ... I just want it to be over." I can't blame him.

And S. said he understood the school's point of view. "People who were thinking about attending [his school] might see the site and think that they might not want to attend. ... I guess they do have reason for concern, because what if it shows up on a search engine."

S.'s family moved from Russia to the United States when he was four. His father painted for me an interesting picture of the interrogation by the police officers who were called to the school. Keep in mind that S. had already been told by his school that he fit the profile of a potential killer.

The police questioned them for a couple of hours. The "killer" profile was brought up again. Questions were raised about S.'s psychological state, whether he had made threats before, and whether the family had guns in the house.

His father repeated to me twice, as if he couldn't quite believe the whole thing had actually happened, that the police gave him a case number and are keeping the report on file. "I grew up in an environment," he told me, "where they are labeling people and where there is a witch hunt." He brought up McCarthyism. Eleven years in the States had led him to believe that this kind of thing doesn't happen here, or at least not anymore. I wish he were right.

The moral of the story is to be careful when passing notes to your friends. And believe the Camel when it says -- third edition, page 69 -- "You will be miserable until you learn the difference between scalar and list context."

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Sophomore Mistakes Perl Context, Questioned by Cops (DRAFT)

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Keep in mind that S. had already been told by his school that he fit the profile of a potential killer.

    I wish my school had told me that. Instead they just told me to go to college :(

  • by Anonymous Coward
    There were no charges, so it's not a "police record" in the sense of charges, but that there was an "encounter" with police of some sort. The record of this will be kept around typically so if any trouble comes up, it's there to "help." The good thing is it will go away when they become adults. When I was 15, the town cops decided one halloween night to take down the names of everyone under 18 found on the streets NOT in costume, on the presumption that they would be up to no good. I was walking home from a neighbor's house and got stopped, questioned, and my name was taken down. I then had the nice pleasure of basically making the town's "usual suspects" list every time property in my neighborhood was vandalized (even though I had never been in any trouble for such a thing, was an honors student, mowed several of my neighbor's lawns, etc.). The good thing is it went away with time. The bad things show how stupid cops can be.
  • We are very lucky to live in a country where the State still mostly is answerable to the people

    Are you joking? America is not no more democratic than Germany's $FASCIST$ was. America/Americans better wake up to realize they are living in (presently) a corporate state. P-L-U-T-O-C-R-A-C-Y - look it up. The elections are a pagent of money and 30 second soundbits, the president now calls American Citizens 'consumers', and no one questions that 'lobbying' & 'campaign contributions' literally buy/write legislation. The only 'entities' that can participate in American 'democracy' are corporate deep-pockets.

    Frankly: When given the choice between Modern America(TM) and the cultures you described - I might think twice about a couple of the other options... (both Russia & China before the burgoise took control from the People (again) as has happened in America).

    Posting As A/C because I modded before I read your post. SubtleNuance

  • Where's the police record? It's not like they came by, arrested the kids and threw them in jail without bail for two weeks. The cops came by, took a look, gave up, and left. If they weren't called, FOX would find out and have an hour long show about how private schools have their own rules for dealing with situations like this - IS YOUR SCHOOL NEXT?
  • I am aware of these school shootings.

    The authorities are not at fault for failing to investigate. The kids who fired the guns are at fault. Alone. The buck stops there.

    The police have no right to investigate where there is no crime. Period. To answer your question -- I do not have children, but I do have family in public schools (in both teaching and student roles). I would rather permit their deaths (or my own) than live in a police state.
  • Actually, I do work in a large office building. When I'm not telecommuting, that is. Even if there were a coworker liable to go on a shooting rampage, I'd much rather let him do so (and take my chances) than give the police the ability to preemptively investigate a crime which hasn't happened yet and may never occur.

    I do not believe the police had any reason or right to investigate unless they had knowledge that a crime had been comitted.

    I don't ask for freedom from consequences. I simply ask that, unless I do something wrong, the authorities stay out of my business. And having a line on a web page that looks a bit suspicious should under no circumstances be considered reasonable cause for an investigation.
  • Just what are we supposed to do when we see something like that? Ignore it entirely unless they've shot someone already? The police looked into it, and found no crime. What more can you ask?

    Is it illegal to have a line about a shotgun on a web page?

    If not, what business do the police have investigating it?

    Hell, yes, it should be ignored -- even if they have shot someone already. If that's the case, they should be investigating the shooting, not the text.
  • If the state is sufficiently handstrung by a tightly written and interpreted and difficult-to-modify constitution, it will be unable to serve corporate needs (or do anything else outside of its charter).

    Thus, restrict the abuse of the state and you restrict the abuse of the corporations. The state is where the problem needs to be attacked, though, not the corporations; they're simply too many and too hard to regulate effectively. Since there's only one government in power, regulating it tightly makes a nice choke point.
  • >WHY was the case not dropped immediately after
    the >'fortune' thing was explained?

    It *was*, at least once this was confirmed.

  • Every case of "censorship" of a school newspaper that I"ve actully looked at in the past has been misrepresented.

    If you look at the cases, they come down to *who* is the publisher with free speech rights. In almost all cases, the school, and not the students, is the publisher, and therefore is entitled to control the content. At my law sdchool, when I was editor-in-chief, *I* was actually the one with control answering to noone, but that's the exception, not the rule.

    Free speech does not entitle you to have your piece printed where and when you want. There are *other* cases where the students have printed on their own, without school resources, and attempted to distribute on or near the school in the same manner as other documents from individuals are distributed. These students consistently win. It's the ones who want to use *someone else's* resources (the school) to distribute their opinions that get successfully "censored"

    hawk, esq.

  • The first amendment censorship cases come from public schools, not private schools.

    A private school is another story, and in this case "censorship" is about conduct.

  • > Actually, would the police bother with their time if they found the
    > same line on a piece of paper in the principal's office?

    A) That begs the question of why the police are in the principal's office. The school called the police; this wasn't something they started with on their own,.

    B) If there had been a rash of principals sneaking guns into schools and shooting people, I would expect so.


  • I'd rephrase that as being that freedom of speech is the right not to be silenced by the government, not access to a medium of publication or freedom from the consequences of your speech.

    hawk, esq.

  • LOL. But he was far too narrow in focus :)

    It's actually one of the advantages of a small campus like this--I teach in four different departments, and in all three disciplines where I hold doctorates . . .

    Did they ever make any more of his movies, or just the one?

  • The problem is that they called the police _after_ a staff member confirmed their story.

    You also said

    --who takes the blame when kids get killed????

    The killers, maybe?
  • "All they would see were rotating one liners, one of which stated 'I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded.' Under these circumstances, contacting the police was reasonable."

    Not to cast blame or make excuses, but here's what a tech-savvy and thinking staff member might have done: in+an+Adidas+bag%22 []

    The page that comes up makes it crystal clear that it's a quote (try it!). When you need context, feed a phrase to Google.

    By the way, I think the first line on the actual site went up to the word "tennis" -- not sure. What you saw in the story as I wrote it depends on the width of your browser.

    Jamie McCarthy

  • ---
    Sounds good if you believe that the problems in public education stem from teachers and administrators who aren't motivated to solve the problem, and that economic fears will supply that motivation. Exercise for the reader: how many individuals choose a career in public education because they care deeply about economic rewards?

    Actually, this isn't the justification for vouchers at all. Basically, there are two reasons for them:

    1. Choice. In a capitalistic society, the theory goes, if a sufficient number of people are dissatisfied with a given choice an alternative will pop up. As it is now the public school system is a monopoly in that if you don't like it the only alternative is another public school (which, for geographic reasons, often isn't an alternative at all). However, if more and more people use private schools the prices should drop considerably, as there is a larger customer base to cater to.

    2. Economic. This doesn't have anything to do with how well teachers are paid, but rather the ability of the consumer (parents, children) to vote with their dollars. This basically ties in with #1 above: If being shitty means that a private school is going to lose a student, they'll avoid being shitty. Public schools in comparison only need to worry if the kid shows up in order to keep their funding.

    There's also another side benefit, for those of you who want to see public schools get better: They'll have to compete with the private schools, and should (hopefully) get better in their own right. This will add a little accountability to them, which never hurts.

    As for some of the other worries: As an agnostic, I understand peoples' concerns about free speech and religion being taught in class, but I don't begrudge the fundamentalist's rights to brainwash their poor children's minds if they see fit (with their own tax dollars). What I do hope for are for non-religious private schools to become more popular, run more like colleges than current high schools. Less emphasis on busy work and more on life skills.

    The other thing I think a lot of people forget about the current voucher programs being pushed is that they're only available for areas where the public schools fail. Basically, it's going to start as an experiment in places where they can't possibly do any WORSE than public schools already. In other words, low income areas.

    If you don't care for Republicans or conservatives, that's your perogative. But look at vouchers on their own merits - it isn't giving up on public schools, but providing an alternative for those who already have given up on them.

    - Jeff A. Campbell
  • First a few questions...which amendment is it that says the United States Constitution applies to the states? As far as I still know the United States Constitution ONLY applies to the United States Government. The State governments are still regulated by their own constitutions. Also, many people seem to forget that you have NO rights until you become a voting citizen in the republic, ie you turn eighteen. Which makes sense. Just like the poll tax, but that's a whole other subject.
  • Because they were suspended for a site with derogatory remarks about the school. Read the article...
  • Simple rule: if you make something which should not be out in public: use authentication.

    Not giving out the URL is security through obscurity. Securing it at least with a user/password combination is a lot safer.

  • Schools, especially public schools, are acting as surrogate parents/guardians to minors on behalf of their parents. As surrogate parents, they have, in some cases, parental powers that are completely outside the normal Constitutional rights between the government and adults.

    Conflicts come from the difference between parental desire and school policy and actions.

    I've had to explain this to a couple teenage sons so far as they tell me that the school is infringing on their Constitutional rights...

  • No, you're the idiot. I refer you to [this comment (#60)] [] and [this comment (#55)] [], which sum it all up rather nicely.

    In short, the kids aren't in trouble with the police: the cops came and went. The cops were called in because the line "I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs" is pretty darn threatening, especially in the context of an website that is abusive towards school, school administrators, teachers and student peers.

  • They've *GOT* to keep some sort of record.

    *EVERY* time someone makes a complaint to the cops, and they take action, there's a case number and a file. Doesn't matter *what* the complaint is about, nor does it matter if the complaint was off-base, out-to-lunch or otherwise illegitimate.


  • Damn, another post that should be +5!

    Clary, I commend and support you for your clear thinking.

    All too many parents these days abdicate their responsibilities on some ill-conceived idea that "freedom" is the be-all and end-all. They allow their children to get away with anything -- and support them in doing it! -- instead of setting boundaries and expecations for behaviour.

    They leave their children without a moral compass, expecting them to somehow develop it independently and without guidance. What a stupid and mean thing to do to one's offspring!

    Your "benevolant dictatorship" is the sign of a healthy and functional home. I'm sure any number of pinheads will get all caught up in their conditioned response to the word "dictatorship," completely misunderstanding that "benevolant" is the more important word.

    Your household will be one in which your children do have input in how things should be done, but in which *you* accept ultimate responsibility for setting the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

    That's responsible parenting. Thank you for being a parent. There aren't nearly enough of them these days.

  • Hear, hear! QPT should be modded up to +5.

    Maybe most everyone on Slashdot is a pimply-faced youth -- it's the only rationale I can find for the number of posts that actually *defend* the nosepickers who just got in trouble.

    Myself, I think they've just had avaluable lesson in Real Life: you slag someone, there's bound to be consequences. What goes around comes around.

    Argue "freedom of speech" all you like, but your right to verbally abuse me ends where my fist reaches your face. All the utopian ideals in the world aren't going to do you a bit of good when you're picking your teeth up from the ground.

    Wanna disagree with someone? Wanna protest something unfair? Wanna make a difference to the system and wanna get things to change?

    Better do it civilly, then. Much safer for your teeth, let alone your education. The school of hard knocks is for those too stupid to learn any other way...

  • Only if you let them (enroll in their school, sign a contract to work for them, etc.). Of course for kids it's more like "only if your parents let them."

    I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.

  • Anonymous Coward seems to think that it is worth commenting apon that the 14th amendment has effectively altered the 1st amendment. That was its intention: to extend the Bill of Rights to apply to the states. This is very clear in the legislative history, it was not a stretch by the Supreme Court at all. Any amendment supersedes everything that has come before. (Ignorant people sometimes claim that the income tax is illegal because they don't understand this principle: an amendment overrules any preceding contradictory text).

    Wherever in the Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments) you see "Congress shall make no law", you should read, thanks to the 14th "and neither shall the states, cities, counties, etc".

  • And aborts the process with SIGHEIL ;)

  • The police record part is not FUD. You missed this part:

    His father repeated to me twice, as if he couldn't quite believe the whole thing had actually happened, that the police gave him a case number and are keeping the report on file.

    Now, that may not count as an official "police record" (and it's certainly not a "criminal record"), but it is more than just questioning.

  • Wow, you're either really stupid or really naieve.
    Well, not to feed the trolls too much, but yes, at the time, I was probably a bit of both, at least about how I would be perceived. And perception is everything in this game.
  • If he was not asked to crack the password file,
    I was not asked not to crack the password file either.
    and it was against Intel's policy,
    Quite the contrary. System administrators (such as I was at the time) are required to run crack. My fault was that I was acting as a system administrator in an attempt to help my former system administrator buddies in a different group. That was stupid, but I presumed that as long as I was still wearing an Intel badge, I was working "for the company" and not for a particular division. Little did I know how the division politics would play into this case.
  • which amendment is it that says the United States Constitution applies to the states?

    The 14th. []

    Also, many people seem to forget that you have NO rights until you become a voting citizen in the republic, ie you turn eighteen.

    The primary reason they forget that is that it isn't true. The 14th amendment guarantees that, too.

    If that weren't true, the 26th amendment [] wouldn't make any sense; why make it clear that a right only extends to citizens who are 18 years of age or older, if there are no citizens less than that age?

    Don't feel bad, I got smacked down in Constitutional Law class in college for thinking the same thing, and I'm American.

  • A police record (sometimes known as a contact record) is nominally informal. There is absolutely no law that I know of that causes a police record to go away at any time.

    What I'm saying is that I think there should be. If, after some period of time, the police can't bring charges, or after charges are resolved in such a way as to not result in a conviction, police should be required to dispose of this sort of data. Why? Because long-term retention of this sort of data really makes the assumption of innocence a difficult thing. This is sort of a similar concept to that of the statute of limitations.

    There is a certain method to this madness. If you were to comit a crime the day before your birthday, it would be very wierd for the cops to have to forget that they questioned/suspected you only yesterday. A criminal case, on the other hand, has a sense of closure at the end of the sentance.

    People who are very close to their 18th birthday are usually charged as an adult for any sort of serious crime anyway. I think that it would be reasonable for there to be a set length of time in which they could retain information pertinant to a live investigation, but once an investigation is closed or some period of time has passed, they should be forced to dispose of this kind of information.

  • However, contact cards and incident reports (at least in my state) are legally considered to be public records. A police department that doesn't maintain them could face liability.

    Ick. What state is that, so I can avoid going there.

    In all seriousness though, if these records are considered public, can I go down to the police station and demand to see any such records on a particular individual? If I do so, can I publish that sort of information? Given the fact that for too many people (especially in the case of many police) suspicion == guilt, then this could be very powerful information to use against someone you didn't happen to like for some reason.
  • The good thing is it will go away when they become adults

    It may be 'supposed' to be expunged at a certain time, but in reality, many police agencies retain records of this sort of thing far past when they are supposed to be expunged. Generally, they only get expunged either when the police agency is forced by lack of space to destroy and throw away records, or when one of the officers retires and he throws away his files.

    It is not at all uncommon for records of juvenile arrests which never resulted in any sort of actual prosecution, let alone convictions to come up years later in adulthood. For adults it is not uncommon for records of arrests to be used against them years later, even if no prosecution or convictions resulted from them. Unfortunately for some people, they can find themselves suspects in future cases merely because the police believe that they were guilty of previous offenses (even if someone else ends up convicted of that offense) and that their previous arrest matches the profile of some new case.

    Many police tend to feel that they are above the law and that their occasional convenience resulting from retention of this sort of data outweighs the bad. And in too many cases the public is unwilling to call them to task for this kind of abuse of authority.

  • I'm not sure about that. Companies that have password entry websites (e.g. all of those "registered developers only" sites) consider them private and would probably do nasty things to you if you gained access through a method they didn't approve of.

    IP blocking to password protection to encryption is just a matter of degree-- the intent is the same. Most companies connect all of their machines to the net, but consider the resources private and get incensed if you find an unprotected way of getting to them.

    Hell, in this day of EULA's, you can probably write "I do not give you permission to look at this" on top of a site and sue anybody who reads futher. I know many laywers actually write stuff like that in their e-mail sigs.


  • That is a weak argument. As stated in the Constitution, Congress is the only branch of federal government that is allowed to make law. So it is implicit that if Congress shall make no law regading something, then no federal government branch or agency is allowed to make that law (or indeed any other law). Maybe you are just trolling; or else you went to a public school Civics class.
  • Yeah, the clubs are usually ruled to be illegally discriminating.

    But, when someone starts a fitness club that is women only, that's okay.

    Obviously any man who wants to hang out with a bunch of women is a psycho pervert, but a woman who wants to hang out with a bunch of men is well within her rights...

    I think we should be able to discriminate on some things. For one, until everyone uses the same bathroom regardless of gender, I think we should be allowed to choose who we want in our club.

    I personally don't see any need for a single-gender club, but I don't think it's really a bad thing.

    Personally, I'd prefer a club with a minimum age limit. The older I get, the more inane young people tend to seem, especially when in groups.

    (That's why I like the net, I can get a sense of someone's mental state and personality without irrelevancies intruding. If they can carry on a conversation, that's good enough.)
  • >Is it illegal to have a line about a shotgun on a web page?

    >If not, what business do the police have investigating it?

    Hello? Do you watch the news? There have been a number of school shootings in the U.S. where people were killed. In each case there _were_ warning signs like threats or obsessions with violence. Understandably, people are a little paranoid right now. It was an unfortunate turn of events, but how would you like to be the police Sergeant who had to face an angry city when a kid _DID_ pull a shotgun from an Adidas bag and blow someone's son or daughter away when you had this information beforehand?

    Like it or not, tjose of you in this insulated little Slashdot fantasy world are going to have to realize that there are more than black and white in the world and the right to Free Speech in the U.S. may be one of our most paramount, but it is not absolute. Try citing the first amendment to security at an airport after you make a joke about a bomb. Try explaining about your rights to the F.B.I. after you make a crack about shooting the president.

  • I understand your misgivings, but the sole responsibility of law-enforcement is not to respond to crimes after the fact, but to also _prevent_ crimes from happening whenever possible (for a reasonably limited value of "possible", i.e., without violating all relevant civil and legal rights).

    Now, I have little doubt the authorities in this situation and climate might go a little to far, but I also agree with them looking into it. Of course, it can be a slippery slope on the way to a police state, but I still think it's worth taking the risk, since our form of government is uniquely qualified to prevent a police state (or to paraphrase, I believe, Disraeli, it's the worst form of government in the world, except for all the rest).
  • "Honestly, what is Jamie expecting? That the police will say, "Oh, a Perl error! We'll shred all the files and pretend this never happened?"

    How about `oh, it was a quote without attribution, fine'?


    What the FUCK is wrong with talk about shotguns? Blimey. Some people are just too sensitive.

    Remember: any society that can't cope with arbitrary choices of content has problems.
    .|` Clouds cross the black moonlight,
  • It's not necessarily standing up for what one believes to tell one's employer to fsck off and die. It's standing up for what one believes to quit and inform the employer why. Being rude and offensive never changed anyone's mind--being polite and intelligent has changed many a mind. That's one of the things one learns when one gets out of puberty: throwing a temper tantrum--whether it's a toddler's kicking and screaming or a teenager's whining and website making--is not an ideal solution; it rarely leads to resolution. far better to articulately explain why one opposes a policy. One might still sound immature, but it's a good kind of immature--the kind which is brimming with the promise of a capable adult.

    Note how much more effective a post like this is than one which simply states `Yer wrong Sh1th34d! I'm l33t!'

  • The first amendment only restrains the actions of government and public institution, such as a public school. Private entities are not beholden to the first amendment at all. They can make any censoring action they see fit unless other laws take precedence, such as equal-opportunity employment laws.

    For example, this was helpful in the case "Cyber Promotions vs. AOL." (I think I have the plaintiff's name right.) Cyber Promotions was a well-known spam organization that AOL blocked e-mails from. Cyber Promotions argued that since AOL was acting as a postmaster that they should have to respect the first amendment. (There is a preexisting case that establishes that if a private institution is the only one offering a government service in a town that they must be treated as a public entity, such as in the case of "company towns.") The court rejected this argument and upheld that AOL was not acting as a government entity. Thus, AOL was free to filter their networks as they saw fit.

    Private schools can get away with this because they don't receive public funding. I wonder, though, if Bush's school voucher program goes through if they can still enjoy this status.
  • Private entities don't get to use violence. Corporations only have persuasion in their toolchest. Governments get to kidnap, steal, and yes, even murder uncooperative citizens.
  • In other words, the same entity that supposedly is going to protect us from corporations is being used by corporations to carry out their evil deeds. Okay, sure, yeah, um-hum, right.
  • Only one thing I will argue with you about. You say:
    There is a good reason for this. Democratic government is meant to be by and for "the people". Government has a monopoly on some things, so they need the restraint/
    The actual main reason is that we live in a Republic not a Democracy, and it is to prevent "Tyranny of the Masses". The theory, anyway, is that the government WILL listen to the people. It is to prevent the majority of the people (via the government) from imposing their will on a minority
  • We're a republic because of the Constitution


    That sentence no sentence
  • Aren't private school governed by the same laws as public schools?
    No, this is America. Capitalist organisations (down to small schools) are free to do anything they like.
    Actually if said school receives federal funding, then they are bound by the various rules and regulations that come with that funding (i.e., Title IX which mandates women's sports be treated on an equal footing with men's sports).

    Most private schools do receive federal funding (at least on the University level) and they have to also follow various other federal laws, especially the non-discrimination, equal opportunity in hiring laws that arose out of the Civil Rights amendments. Otherwise it would be legal for private school owners to own slaves, which is against the law throughout the U.S. (excepting economic slavery, as poor people in the U.S. technically are wage slaves).
    If you want society to grant you rights beyond those you can afford to buy, then live somewhere with a more socialist slant (like Europe, as I do)
    I've seriously been thinking of moving to Europe. At least they don't pretend to have a "democracy" like most Americans do. It is not a "democracy" when the candidate with the most popular votes loses the election.

    I haven't decided where to go yet. I've been thinking Spain, but I hear there are lots of IT jobs in Ireland. At this point even England or France would be an improvement over the U.S...
    You think being a MIB is all voodoo mind control? You should see the paperwork!
  • The reason so many of us have strong opinions is because these issues have affected us personally again and again and yet again. This tends to make you motivated to learn more. It's no different from someone with a disease wishing to learn more about it -- and often becoming more knowledgeable about that disease than their primary care physician. These people aren't doctors... yet good doctors will recognize their value as resources for their own care.

    As for the depth of knowledge, I agree that many posters haven't studied civil liberties beyond the 10th grade civics class introduction. But many of us, because of needs-based motivation, have studied it in much more detail. I've sat in on a college pre-law course on civil liberties, via a cable TV channel. I've read several books written by lawyers specializing in constitutional law on how civil liberties apply to cyberspace. I follow the EFF. I pay close attention to the opinions, esp. dissenting opinions, whenever the Supreme Court issues rulings on these issues.

    I am not a lawyer... but I am probably more current on civil liberties issues than most practicing attorneys since they probably haven't had to think about this stuff since their bar exam. Even lawyers who specialize in Constitutional Law may not be paying close attention to civil liberties as they apply to cyberspace. You would be a fool to not get advice from a lawyer if you need it... but it's equally foolish to run to a lawyer several times a week for every single question (and the more you know about this topic, the more questions you have!), or to censor yourself so severely that the question never comes up because you live in an unwired trailer deep in the woods.

    Bottom line: like every other public forum 90+% of the stuff here is crap. But not 100%.
  • Check out the Tinker decision, from the Vietnam War. Students in a public school wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam War and were suspended for it. Supreme Court had some very choice words for the Des Moines school district. Upshot: in a public school, students have First Amendment rights because the school is an agency of both the State and Federal Governments. According to the First Amendment, the Federal Government can't intrude on a student's free speech rights without damn good reason; according to the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the State Government can't, either.
  • by wiredog ( 43288 )
    Aren't private school governed by the same laws as public schools?

    Public schools are subject to the Federal and State Constitutions. Private schools, being private, are not. See this thread [] for a full explanation.

  • I'm stealing that! Not sure where/when I'll use it. But it's great.
  • "that guy whose name I won't mention because it will cause the S/N ratio to go to zero?"

    Passing a pointer to Godwins_Law() still works. Godwins_Law() automatically de-references pointers. ;)

  • That last sentence of yours explains why the 'faith-based initiative' of GWB is going down in flames. The ACLU doesn't want gov't funding of religion and the churches don't want the gov't dictating their standards. If both the ACLU and Pat Robertson think it's a bad idea, then it probably is.
  • Wrongo. Under the Articles of Conferderation this would've been true, the states could do whatever they chose regardless of what applied to Congress. When our Constitution, and by exenstion the Bill of Rights, was drafted the framers it was their intention that the Constitution be the supreme law of the land, with power over the federal and state governments. The idea was that the US was founded on a few basic principles and that Americans have certain undeniable, and that no body of government in this Union has the right to take them away. In fact the states are expressly forbidden by the Constitution from enacting certain types of laws.

  • Everything you write presupposes an independent and uncompromised State, and all markets being vital, option-rich free markets. But if a corporation can buy governmental power -- for instance, through bribing senators or judges, or through kingmaking, or getting state-sponsored monopolies -- than the State becomes a puppet of Corporations. And if markets are ruled de-facto monopolies or the major players in them price-fix, then the Corporation can become a kind of de-facto government.

    And those are precisely the problems which so many anti-Corporatists perceive. Schooling is a good example: there are many places where the supply of "seats" in private schools is less than the demand, and being able to get into a private school at all is literally a crap shoot (see the whole Charter School issue in MA).

    While I am completely behind homeschooling, and advocate it 100%, don't get me wrong -- saying "there's homeschooling as an alternative to the lack of reasonable choices in private schools" is precisely like saying "if you don't like the business practices of the two grocery stores in your town, grow your own food." There's a lot of merit to it -- but it in no way addresses the problems of the market.

  • If they start to harrass you needlessly over something like that, there are a couple of things you can do. Probably the most benign is to start refusing to do more than the absolute legal minimum (which is pretty close to the Geneva convention "name, rank, Serial number).

    You are required, by law, (in Canada, at least) to identify yourself to a police officer. Other than that you have to say nothing. If they insist on talking to you, you can ask if you're under arrest, or being detained. If the answer is 'no', you should be able to walk away.

    In Canada, if you are 'detained', you have an immediate right to a lawyer. double-ditto if you're under arrest.

    If I'm stopped for questioning, I'm clear that I'm talking to them at my convenience. About the only time I got stopped on the street by the cops, I was waiting for the bus. I talked to the cops until the bus showed up, and waived the bus to stop. I had no quesiton in my mind that if it was a choice between talking to the cops or catching the bus, I was going to get on the bus. The cops got the hint, and wrapped up the interview in about 15 seconds.

    I had no problem talking to them, per se, but if they were going to continue the conversation, they would have had to either get on the bus with me, or offer me an immediate ride to the LRT (subway) station.

  • How exactly can an individual censor you?
    "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation" (SLAPPs) [] are pretty effective.

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms |

  • You realize that in all the recent school shootings the students involved mentioned their plans either online or in person but were ignored because nobody was prompted to do anything because it "was just speech"
    How many more dead teenagers do you want to see before people are supposed to be held accountable for their words and actions?

    I see what you mean, but I think it's ridiculous to think that the solution is police investigation.

    The *reason*, at least partly, that the latest shooting happened, was because the kid who shot people was getting bullied at school. The previous shooting, IIRC, was by kids who were social outcasts at school too. It would be so much simpler, so much cheaper and so much more effective to actually start *dealing* with the bullying problem in schools, than to do almost random geek profiling, website policing and speech suppression on the assumption that anyone who talks about guns is a potential murderer.

    Sorry to rant like this, but it really bothers me that people go chasing stupid, ineffective "solutions", yet ignore the real bullying problem that is staring everyone in the face.

  • I worked for both the school newspaper and published my own. I could do anythig I wanted in my own paper, and never was there a hint of reprisal. But the school newspaper was essentially content-controlled. Not in a particularly bad way -- use clean language, op-ed pieces about sex, drugs, etc verboten, etc. Essentially, "don't embarrass the school, or get us sued."

    Perfectly fine as far as I can tell.

    - - - - -
  • The police record bit is explained towards the end. It's not quite a record... but they are keeping a file on the guy.

    "The police questioned them for a couple of hours. The "killer" profile was brought up again. Questions were raised about S.'s psychological state, whether he had made threats before, and whether the family had guns in the house. His father repeated to me twice, as if he couldn't quite believe the whole thing had actually happened, that the police gave him a case number and are keeping the report on file."

  • In a free country, people are innocent until proven guilty. In the United States, you are guilty until proven innocent -- you simply aren't sentanced for any crime until a trial is over. But whether you win or loose the trial, you'll still have your life ruined.
  • ---start disclaimer---
    I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on television.
    ---end disclaimer---

    When I took constiutional law in grad school we were specifically informed that not only did the 1st amendment apply to the states (both through the 14th as stated by AC above, as well as many state constitutions), as agencies of the states, it applies to public schools. The limitation in the case of primary and secondary education is that the persons affected are minors and that school administrators have both a quasi-parental relationship (this is the law, not reality!) to students, and school administrators also have governmental responsibilities to maintain order and safety on campus. Once you are out of high school and in college, the 1st amendment applied with a vengeance if you are at a public college or university.
  • You are living in a dream world if you think the little tax break for vouchers is really going to help the low-income family. You really are.

    If you don't think that this would really help people you're living in a dream world, you really are. I personally know several families who have kids that are struggling in school and have had the administration tell them, "If you don't like what we're doing for your son go to school somewhere else." If there were a way for them to pay for it I'm sure that they would.

    People with money have more choices in educating their children, they also have the resources to sue the school district to force the district to pay for their kid to attend private school. It really sucks when you know that the schools could do a better job helping your kid to succeed, but you can't afford to make them do it and you can't afford to take your kid somewhere else.

  • I agree with you, usually it is possible to get what you need by asking and that should always be your first step. I had a lot of trouble at school when I was in elementary school my parents finally gave up on the public neighborhood school being the solution that I needed and sent me to a private school. This was exactly the kind of environment that I needed for a few years and helped me immensely. I went back to public school for junior high and high school and did fine. I'm very lucky that my parents had the means to find other alternatives for me when the state provided ones didn't work out. I also know that it was a really big struggle for them and that they would have really appreciated it if some of the tax money they were spending to fund the schools had gone to help them pay for my private school. I also know someone that I attended this school with whose parents did have to sue the public school district in order to get her needs provided for.

    The question to consider is what are we funding with our taxes. I'd hope that we are funding the education of students because that's what we really want. More and more often though I get the impression that we are funding schools for the sake of schools and that's not the point at all. It doesn't matter one bit to me if we have great schools or not. What matters to me is that the children in this country receive a good education in one way or another.

  • Umm, the government is paid for by the people's taxes, everyone hired there is a paid government employee, so how is it not the government?

    Because, as the article made perfectly clear, it's a private school. No one there is a paid government employee.

  • Well, it's never "as simple as that", but again I think there is a distinction. You *entered into* a relationship with your employer, which one assumes had some terms and conditions you knew about when you started. The company is not allowed to set any old set of rules it pleases -- there are anti-discrimination laws, safety and health rules, etc. -- but as regards "free speech" the company can terminate you if it doesn't like what you say. In very particular circumstances there are "Whistleblower" protection laws for workers who reveal misconduct or fraud on Government contracts. As opposed to what you have posted about the UK, there are no national "right to work" laws in the US, and those enacted on a state level concern your right to seek work with other employers (i.e., most "non-compete" clauses in employment contracts are not enforceable).

    To get back to our discussion, I'd submit that your relationship with Government begins at birth, and with no consent on your part. Your relationship with your employer was entered into by you as a rational adult. As another poster pointed out, once you have a dispute with your Government they can prevent your moving to somewhere else, something not available to a company (again, except where Government is acting as the company's lackey, which I feel violates our rights).
  • Quoting, since AC's commment won't be seen by most:

    The first ammendment doesnt apply to schools. it applies to free speech. Schools dont speak, being made as they are of bricks and mortor. School-kids, at school, can write, at school, whatever they want. The people responsible for running the school can censor anything they like, its their school, why shouldnt they? The first amemdment applies purely to the government saying what you can and cant say, not other organisations.

    Umm, the government is paid for by the people's taxes, everyone hired there is a paid government employee, so how is it not the government? I also assure you, kids' can't "say whatever they want" ( I do support limits of course, there are always limits to free speech). Not only that, but kids can't say what they want about the school EVEN IF THEY AREN'T IN SCHOOL NOR ON SCHOOL PROPERTY (kids get suspended every day in this country for web pages they author from home that is not hosted on a school-owned computer.)
  • by hawk ( 1151 ) <> on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @05:17AM (#364585) Journal
    I am a lawyer, but this is nto legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

    As near as I can tell, our federal government is the only one in world history for which distrust of government is a central founding principle (though the state governments of some of the western and midwestern states may qualify as well). By design, individuals are left to their own affairs (though this has weakened to a distressing degree), and government is hamstrong at every possible turn. People decry "gridlock" from our two-chambered legislature and executive veto, but this is a feature, not a bug. It was *designed* to work that way.

    The government has massive resources; the individual little. So that the individual has a fighting chance when faced with the aweseome power of the state, the playing field is tipped in his favor.

    Private interactions are another matter. To *not* allow the school to require its enrollees to abide by these policies would be a *limitation* of the freedom of individuals to contract, and is thus repugnant to the principles of our system (which we got from you, and stem in turn from the tribes the romans were never able to quite control).

    See, it's really all about our protecting "The Rights of Englishmen", which is all we wre really after in the 18th century, anyway :)

    hawk, esq.

  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:55AM (#364586)
    Why is choice in school bad while choice in OS, CPU, and car are all wonderful? Why is it a bad thing to be allowd to find a school that teaches the way you want? Yeah, yeah, this is a troll, probably, but here's my take: Choice is good only if everyone has the opportunity to make that choice. For cars and CPUs, that's certainly possible; your choice range might be limited in both cases due to income, but that limitation can still leave you with a wide range of choices from different manufactures. (OS, I'll leave out, because of the Microsoft Tax, but ignoring this, you do have a choice in OS as well).

    Vouchers do offer choices for education, but only to a subset of the population. Nearly every implementation of vouchers that I read about would give, no questions asked, about $2500/yr per student. Most private schools, however, are asking for at least $5000/yr, if not up to $10,000/yr for tuition. Those that can afford this will do so, but for struggling families not-necessary-poverty-but-only-just-above-it, that's very much out of the question, and they're stuck with the public school allocated to them by districting lines. Thus, they have no choice. Vouchers only give choices to the rich. That $2500/yr is better spent on a whole improving all public schools particularly those in inner cities, and paying better salaries for teachers, than to allow a few more select few students the choice of an education.

  • by stripes ( 3681 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @05:56AM (#364587) Homepage Journal
    Vouchers do offer choices for education, but only to a subset of the population. Nearly every implementation of vouchers that I read about would give, no questions asked, about $2500/yr per student. Most private schools, however, are asking for at least $5000/yr, if not up to $10,000/yr for tuition.

    So is your complaint that vouchers don't give enough?

    I don't think "only the rich" would find this useful. When I was growing up we middle class, and my parents sent my sister to a private school (possably as a result of seeing how screwed up the public school I went to was). My patents managed to do this pretty much by not buying a new car from 1979 through the early 1990s (and only two or three used ones, all under about $1000).

    I expect even if vouchers are "half off" it will at least help the middle class, and maybe the upper lower class. Not just the rich.

    Vouchers only give choices to the rich.

    Vouchers don't do squat for the rich. The rich are, after all, rich. If they want to send thsir kids to private school, they allready do. If they want to give their kids cars that cost more then my whole family made in a year, they do. Vouchers help the middle class, the not-rich, yet not-poor.

  • by stripes ( 3681 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:23AM (#364588) Homepage Journal
    Private entities are far more dangerous to people, simply because they only have to answer to their shareholders, and that people have been proven again and again that greediness will not stop people from hurting other people.

    Private entities are gennerally less dangerous because you have choices. If these folks can pay for one privte school, they can probbably pay for a diffrent one. If they are sending their children to a public school they are probbably screwed if they need to send them elsewhere.

    It is time for the americans to extend their much beloved constitution to the private sector!!!!

    Ok, just remember you are part of the private sector. If I'm given the right to make a contract with the school to not mock them, and then mock them anyway, I'll have the right to break contracts with you. Perhapse I'll agree to buy your car, and then once I get it forget about the part where I actually have to pay you.

    We allready have tons of laws for the private sector. Maybe too many, maybe too few. Mostly too many. Look at all the slashdot headlines, far more complain about bad stupid unjust laws then the lack of good just needed ones.

  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <> on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:11AM (#364589) Journal
    When will people learn that the STATE is NOT the worse thing out there? Private entities are far more dangerous to people, simply because they only have to answer to their shareholders, and that people have been proven again and again that greediness will not stop people from hurting other people.

    It is time for the americans to extend their much beloved constitution to the private sector!!!!


  • by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:27AM (#364590) Homepage
    Does this mean that sections of your constitution don't apply to private schools? How so, I thought the constitution was all-powerful (or am I misunderstanding this?)

    The constitution is a document that explains the powers of the State in relation to the people, and the bill of rights explicitly spells out some of the rights that the people reserve from the State.

    The constitution only limits what the government may do .Originally it was only the federal government limited by the constitution -- each state could make laws to establish religion, etc -- it was just to prevent a central government from "taking over" the autonomy of the states.

    Of course, we amended the constitution so that now it DOES apply to the individual states, but it does not apply to private companies or individuals. The reason most folks get confused is because frequently private groups that accept federal funding (for example schools that offer government education loans) suddenly are considered to be under the authority of the constitution, because using tax dollars makes them quasi-governmental. So you DO hear all the time about schools especially that get into trouble with citizen's rights, but its because they have CHOSEN to accept that responsibility in exchange for being able to offer government programs.

    Many private schools (particularly religious or very conservative schools) refuse federal funding for exactly this reason. It sounds like this school doesn't accept government money, and thus has no responsibility to respect the students' freedom of speech.

  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs @ a> on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @05:58AM (#364591) Homepage Journal
    I just want to make a few things clear to those who are questioning why Randall thinks he was delt a bum rap.
    • Randall did what an awfull lot of us did (I certainly did). He circumvented a client's security (while still working for them) in order to hand them proof that they needed to fix the problem.
    • Beyond the financial burdon that this has placed on him (which, I understand to be astronomical), this case as resulted in a great deal of lost work and the requirement that he tell any prospective employer about the incident.
    • Intel was quite happy with Randall's work, and he NEVER did ANYTHING to harm the company or that resulted in a loss of money.
    So, do I think Intel should have swatted him? Yes. Do I think that they should have fired him (terminated his contract)? Maybe. I wouldn't, but I'm a nice guy.

    But, final analysis, was it worth nearly ruining the man's life over? What, exactly are whe exacting punishment FOR? A stupid mistake?

    No, this is clearly a case where there were an awful lot of people who wanted to "set an example", and while this is not as extreme a case as some others, Randall was wronged by the system.

  • by cyberdonny ( 46462 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @05:34AM (#364592)
    > he committed crimes and was punished proportionately.

    In the old days, the word "crime" was reserved for actions such as murder, armed robbery, high treason, etc. Nowadays, putting an extra pair of parenthesis around a variable apparently qualifies too...

  • by The Queen ( 56621 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @05:37AM (#364593) Homepage
    the school made the rule.

    I tend to agree with you. I was enrolled in a private school from kindergarten to 4th grade, and the culture shock when I went to public school in 5th grade was insane. In private school, at least back in my day, if you misbehaved you went to the principal's office and got the paddle. Imagine that: between swats, the kid's yelling "I promise I'll *ow* never forget the *ow* difference between list and *OW* scalar again!" :-)

    "I'm not a bitch, I just play one on /."
  • by jjo ( 62046 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @05:53AM (#364594) Homepage
    I see. Even if a voucher program unleashes a vast new demand for lower-cost private schools, the supply side of the private education market will utterly unaffected. The post-voucher market will be precisely equivalent to what we see now. Not one new school will be founded to serve voucher families at tuitions they can afford.

    I beg to differ. Just because upper-crust schools now charge $10,000/yr for tuition does not mean that a quality education needs to cost that much. The current schools are charging what the current (elite) market will bear. Vouchers will change that.
  • by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:31AM (#364595)
    Does this mean that sections of your constitution don't apply to private schools?

    Yes. The constitution only applies to the government.

    For example, suppose your constitution has a clause which says that the government can't establish a state religion. That means that a government or government-funded organisation (e.g. a public school) can't say that members of some religion are allowed to be on staff. However this doesn't apply to non-government organisations (e.g. a church may impose a rule that you must be a member of this church to be an office holder).

    Now of course it may not prohibit the government from passing laws prohibiting this kind of "discrimination" in other organisations, but there might be other problems there. Imagine the fuss that the Roman Catholic Church would kick up if a court decided that they had to allow women to be priests due to anti-discrimination laws...

    There is a good reason for this. Democratic government is meant to be by and for "the people". Government has a monopoly on some things, so they need the restraint. On the other hand, you have a choice as to which private school you send your kids to (if you choose a private school), so they don't need the restraint so much.

    IMO, it's both good and bad. The bad part is that when private organisations overstep the mark there's often no legal recourse. (You can't legislate professionalism.) The good part is that negative publicity can be a much more powerful tool than the legal system, especially in a non-monopoly environment where people can and do vote with their money. Unfortunately, where the guilty party is a school, this can backfire, as lots of parents side with the school, thinking they're doing a good job with "discipline", when they're actually abusing their powers.

    You know, teenagers are rebellious enough without giving them something actually legitimate to rebel against. You'd think the school would know that.

  • by lizrd ( 69275 ) < minus author> on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @05:48AM (#364596) Homepage
    Pretty much the deal is that, if I want, I am free to say to you

    "Shut the fuck up or get the hell out of my house."

    This is a restriction on your speach, but it is not regulated by the US constitution since it is a transaction between private individuals and we are free to conduct our affairs in pretty much anyway that we choose. This is very different from having a federal judge say:

    "You may speak no more of these matters or we will have you deported."

    Also bear in mind that though you are free to say pretty much anything you want in the United States others may still hold you accountable for what you say. If you speak too frequently about hot grits in your pants, I'm free to tell you to piss off and ignore you. If you tell lies about me that damage my reputation or career, I'm free to sue you. If you say things that are threatening in nature, I'm free to have you held criminaly accountable for them.

    The thing to remember is that just because your speach is free doesn't mean that it is consequence free.

    These kids kind of forgot about that. Pretty much, it's never a good idea to say bad things about your boss (school administration in this case) in a public place. The internet is a public place. Therefore you shouldn't say bad things on the net about people who are in a position to make your real life miserable. It's too bad that these kids had to learn that lesson in a really hard way, but it's one that we all have to learn sooner or later.

  • by G-Man ( 79561 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @05:07AM (#364597)
    Amongst all those relationships (Government-Individual, Company-Individual, Individual-Individual), the difference -- the important difference -- is that Government is the only body allowed to use force in any dispute in the relationship *and* you are never allowed to terminate the relationship.

    How exactly can an individual censor you? If your friend does not want you to say something to a third party, you can always say it and suffer the consequences to your frienship, possibly including it's termination. You can also choose to terminate the friendship yourself.

    The same applies to a company -- if you disagree with your boss you can shoot your mouth off and suffer the consequences, or you can quit and say what you want. Now, with the legal resources available to the company, this relationship can be subject to abuse. UCITA, DMCA and the DeCSS case come to mind, where the Government is using force on behalf of the company, so yes I think these are violations of the First Amendment.

    The fact there are *consequences* of your speaking up does not mean you are being censored. If I call all my neighbors Assholes, the fact they won't speak to me or loan me stuff or babysit my kids doesn't mean I'm being censored. Because Government can drag you away or kill you, it requires special restrictions. Without getting into the whole "social contract" thing, freedom does not mean freedom from consequence.

    Leaving aside that the two kids in the story are minors, they (via their parents) always have the option of going to a different (public or private) school. Government is the relationship you can never terminate, short of leaving for another part of the world (and assuming they'll let you leave).

  • by shaper ( 88544 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:45AM (#364598) Homepage

    When will people learn that the STATE is NOT the worse thing out there? Private entities are far more dangerous to people

    Bzzzt! Wrong answer! Thank you for playing!

    When private entities do you harm, you may appeal to a higher power, namely the state, in the form of judicial, legislative or regulatory actions. If the state has harmed you, there is no higher power to appeal to, at least in the secular sense :-). And the state is not nearly as concerned with things like financial hardship that can be devastating to companies and individuals. Further, the state is specifically exempt from many laws under which one could sue a private entity. And finally the big clincher, the state has lots of guns and many more completely legal reasons to shoot you than you have rights to shoot back. It is still illegal for corporations to shoot you. At least, so far it is, anyway.

    In this particular case, the kids can just go to school elsewhere or even home school. If this is a very expensive private school, the parents may have enough money for private tutors. Kids in public funded schools often do not have so many options. So, no this is not worse than the state (public schools) doing the same thing. It still sucks, though.

  • by nlaporte ( 116203 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:22AM (#364599)
    At my school []the AUP states "I [the undersigned] reconize that I continuosly represent Georgetown Day School whenever and wherever I use email and World Wide Web resources, even if I am using these resources away from or outside of the school's network.[my emphasis]" They also state in their handbook that any drug use or other illegal activity outside of school may result in disciplinary action. I'm probably going to get in trouble for psting this on /., using the computer in the library, but who cares.

  • by blane.bramble ( 133160 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:04AM (#364600) Homepage

    It's legal, of course. The First Amendment doesn't apply to private schools. They can make whatever rules they want.

    Does this mean that sections of your constitution don't apply to private schools? How so, I thought the constitution was all-powerful (or am I misunderstanding this?)

  • by f5426 ( 144654 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:38AM (#364601)
    I spend about half an hour on the website.
    Sure, it does document the legal case, but is there a way to actually find what you did ?


  • by Erasmus Darwin ( 183180 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:36AM (#364602)
    Honestly, what is Jamie expecting? That the police will say, "Oh, a Perl error! We'll shred all the files and pretend this never happened?"

    It seems easy enough to explain it to me:

    • The quote on the web page was random (easily done with the 'reload' button)
    • The script was inadvertently trimming the quote (easily done via fixing the bug and showing both versions being run)
    • All the quotes are coming from the fortune program (easily done via running the fixed web page and then doing a 'fortume -m (keyword)' in another session)
    • The fortune program is a standard part of Unix (take an empty PC; erase the harddrive; open a shrink-wrapped copy of RedHat Linux; install; run fortune).
    • The quote in question is listed _twice_ in the quote files of the PC used in the previous point (fortune -m Adidas).
    • The fortune files contain over 13 thousand quotations, ranging from Dave Berry to Star Trek to Hunter S. Thompson to Shakespeare. (I suppose you could just do a grep for the /^%$/ separator and count the results, but it'd be more impressive to print out the entire /usr/share/games/fortunes directory.)
  • by fantom_winter ( 194762 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:15AM (#364603)
    There are many issues floating around in this story, and I don't want to hit on all of them, but on that struck me as pretty relevant to the goings on of today is the fact that they went to a private school.

    This story is an example of why vouchers are a bad idea. Private schools can do whatever they heck they want, and are not bound by all of those things that public schools are. They don't have to give their students freedom of speech, they can force them to participate in prayer, and generally be bigoted jerks if they want. There is no recourse except to find another school. What a wonderful way to ostracize people from the community.

    I think that even though this is a story in general about persecution in schools of "geeks", I think that the fact that it was a private school aggrivated this situation.

    And yes, I can give an example

    When I was in high school, years ago, the one of the junior librarians at the school allowed me to use their computers to snoop around the campus network to satiate my curiosity. See, what they had was an old school cataloguing system written in LISP (believe it or not) and if you went to load up a catalog (which were limited to filename lengths of 3 characters, you could load a different catalog. Anyways, you could imagine what happened if a person typed 'CON'. :) (DOS System) So when I found this, I asked if I could look around a little bit and see how the system worked... I did so for a few weeks during lunch and the ever ubiquitous 'snack' period, and it was pretty cool. Until one of the computer's power supplies died, and guess who they blamed. I have NO DOUBT that if I was at a private school, I would have been screwed. Why? The dean wanted me gone. She was convinced of my guilt and thought I was just a little shit. The only thing that saved me was her accountability to the law. She had no proof of wrongdoing, and because of that, it was later discovered by the administrators with more than one brain cell, that it was likely not my fault. Still, the younger librarian was probably chastized and I never really went in there very much anymore.

    Believe it or not, the law and public schools are actually designed to protect people like us, when it comes down to the wire.

  • by grammar nazi ( 197303 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:04AM (#364604) Journal
    These kids learned more than a lesson in Perl. The article says that they put the website up on the internet, but didn't intend for it to be a public website. Ooops. If the page is out there (on the web), it's public. It doesn't matter how many IP addresses that you ban, it's still in the public for anyone to see. Even password protection wouldn't have protected the site from being viewed when people started giving the password out.
  • by canning ( 228134 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:27AM (#364605) Homepage
    is that essentially these kids were suspended for voicing their opinion on the web rather than speaking it. If they were to contact the same number of people who saw the site vocally than they'd be protected by the first amendment? How does this make sense? Aren't private school governed by the same laws as public schools? Why are they able to do this?

  • by deran9ed ( 300694 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:26AM (#364606) Homepage

    One of the toughest things to do right about now is mention words like "hurt, kill, weapon, etc.," in any school system in the United States and we all know why.

    Regardless if the student was only posting information for a quote for his webpage it doesn't surprise me he was paid a visit by authorities, sure we can rant on about a scalar value of Perl or the right of free speech, but the authorities are only doing their job.

    One thing I will note though is, authorities rarely take the time to dive deep into investigation when it comes to computer related crimes, as they often don't understand the full spectrum of it all (computing). Things are only going to get worse.

    Trying to fight a computer based crime altogether is a nightmare in itself, as attempting to find a jury to prove your innocence while explaining what TCP/IP is, firewalls, etc., will confuse and bore the crap out of any jury sitting there, your 99% likely to lose, since as stated many won't understand whats going on, many will be bored, and many will fall for anything a DA tells them, especially if you have some circumstantial material against you.

    Its a shame that things are this way, but thats the way the cookie crumbles, and theres only so much you can do to protect your rights online.

    Our IRC server is up []
  • by hawk ( 1151 ) <> on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:58AM (#364607) Journal
    I'm glad I'm not the only one that reacted that way.

    There are two independent incidents. One broke the contract with the school and the code of conduct, and resuted in suspension. The second was a webpage that put up a line about hiding a shotgun with no suggestion that it was a quotation from a book and--Horror of Horrors!--the police looked into it!

    Just what are we supposed to do when we see something like that? Ignore it entirely unless they've shot someone already? The police looked into it, and found no crime. What more can you ask?


  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:44AM (#364608)
    A court in Hawaii ruled in a case for disgruntled pilots against their ex-employers that if a web site has sufficient access protection (eg requiring a username and password is sufficient), then by attempted to view that site without obtaining the appropriate access is a violation of the law. In this case, the ex-exployer airline had used passwords of other employees who volunteed their passwords, 'raided' the site (which contained a LOT of critique on the company but wasn't considered libelous since it wasn't a public forum), and fired the people in charge of the site, even though the web site was run on a private server not operated by the company.

    The case above has many parallels, but alas, it's most likely a different jurisdiction, so if it was followed through legally , it would require just the same burdon of proof.

  • by stripes ( 3681 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:36AM (#364609) Homepage Journal
    There is no recourse except to find another school.

    Oh dear God, we would be allowed to find a school with policies we agree with! This dredful choice must be stomped out! Free us from the need to use our minds, oh I beg of you!

    Why is choice in school bad while choice in OS, CPU, and car are all wonderful? Why is it a bad thing to be allowd to find a school that teaches the way you want?

    I have NO DOUBT that if I was at a private school, I would have been screwed. Why? The dean wanted me gone.

    Why? What makes you think your parents would have found a private school with a dean that crappy? Or that switching from one private school with a crappy dean to another would have been "screwed" rather then leaving one sucky place for a less sucky place?

    Believe it or not, the law and public schools are actually designed to protect people like us, when it comes down to the wire.

    They might have been designed to do it, but judging from the Hellmouth stories, they arn't doing such a hot job of it. Why not give something else a chance?

  • by clary ( 141424 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:25AM (#364610)
    Two points.

    First, as this was a private school, the family apparently chose it. If there were serious problems with the environment, then they should have switched schools.

    The article says,

    Personally, I think a school's job is to teach not just the three R's, but also participation as a citizen in our Republic. That may be more important. For a school to teach freedom as a dry document while crushing student dissent is a waste.
    Fine. Then find school that has similar values.

    Second, when my kids get old enough to publish a web site, I will be reviewing it. They certainly will not be allowed to do something foolish like put up a site at Against the First Amendment, you say? Bzzt. Wrongo, Buffalo Bob. My household is a benevolent dictatorship, not a constitutional republic.

    The article says,

    Rules like theirs are great for raising robots. But anyone who's going to make a difference in this world is going to have to be comfortable with laughing at authority.
    And anyone who is going to be taken seriously needs to learn when and how to question authority appropriately and effectively. 10 years from now will this kid make a stupid mistake like calling his employer a fsckhead in a resignation letter? These parent need to teach some life lessons.
  • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:22AM (#364611)
    As bad as I feel for these guys and as much as I feel that they got bent over by their school, I can't help but wonder if this is a true story.

    In the last few months, all the really big victories by students over their schools have come from stuendts and families who were not afraid to identify themselves and fight for their individual freedoms.

    Now, I respect these guys' privacies and understand that staying in this school is apparently more important than thier freedom of speech, but because there is no identification here, there can be no outcry. There can be no angry, pointed fingers at a school to permenantly (and rightly) damage their reputation as restricting their students' freedom of speech.

    Maybe this kids' parents are rich enough that they have court cases going, but I would doubt it. Most likely this is a case of the school putting its needs before the students and the students and the parents going along with that because going to this school is the best way to get into a 'good' university.

    C'mon guys. Identify yourselves. It's important to fight for your freedoms, if not for you, then for the guy next to you who *can't* afford to wage his own court battle.
  • by merlyn ( 9918 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:12AM (#364612) Homepage Journal
    My ongoing legal case (documented for the most part at the Friends of Randal Schwartz site []) involved a badly written port reflector, which I'm sad to say was embarassingly the first Perl code to be placed in the public record.

    Unfortunately, I had a much different outcome from this student. I'm still in the process of demonstrating that the law under which I was tried was constitutionally flawed, turning the activities of dozens of Oregonians every day into unwitting felonies.

  • by micromoog ( 206608 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:24AM (#364613)
    First, the main part of the headline (Perl) is not that big of a deal. The administrators saw a vague mention of loading shotguns into bags, and responded with alarm. This is not suprising given recent events, and the administration was entirely justified in doing this. Not to mention it's FUD to suggest the student has a "police record" because he was interrogated.

    Second, the case about the students being suspended for Web content . . . the story is missing the critical point, which is the content. This is a private organization we're talking about here; libel laws do apply. Tell me what the page said about the school, and then I'll make judgement.

    I guess I'm supposed to be outraged by this story, but I just have to assume the school was in the right until shown otherwise . . . they certainly were on the first point.

  • by update() ( 217397 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:15AM (#364614) Homepage
    After wading through Jamie's hyperventilating, the story is this:
    • These kids put up a site.
    • Because of a coding error, their page had the sentence "I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs" on it without making it clear that it's a quote from fortune, not part of their text.
    • The police investigated.
    • A lot of dumb grown-ups, whom we're going to laugh at aren't as up on Unix and Perl as Jamie. What morons!
    • The records of the investigation are still in the police files. There don't seem to have been any charges filed, despite Jamie's insinuations.
    I feel bad for these kids, but they just had some bad luck and things worked out the way they should have. Honestly, what is Jamie expecting? That the police will say, "Oh, a Perl error! We'll shred all the files and pretend this never happened?"

    Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

  • by tmark ( 230091 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @04:08AM (#364615)
    Many private schools have rules about the conduct of their students, especially as it affects the school or perceptions of the school itself. For instance, many schools have rules that their students *must* wear their school uniform while going or coming from the school; they cannot e.g. change in the school. So it should not come as a suprise that they would suspend students for (as I read the /. article) besmirching the school's reputation or policies.

    Nor should we be upset that they would enforce such a policy. Arbirary school rules are valid because they are private schools that students have elected to attend, and this very election constitutes tacit support of their policies. Private schools *try* to groom students in a very particular way (hence the uniforms, hence the common tradition of addressing students by last name, etc.) and this is precisely the reason parents send their children here. If the parents aren't happy with the school policies, they should not have sent them there. If you don't like the school's policies, don't send your kids there either.

If all the world's economists were laid end to end, we wouldn't reach a conclusion. -- William Baumol