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Student Faces Expulsion for Blog Post 1045

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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  • Dumbasses (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c0d3h4x0r ( 604141 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:01AM (#15399662) Homepage Journal
    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

    Well, if he wasn't being bullied by the school district before, he sure is now. They just proved his argument for him!

    • In an unconfirmed report, the English teacher for this school has apologized saying that the school needed a better example of irony because the students just weren't getting it.
    • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:05AM (#15400011) Homepage
      "Not only are we teaching our students math, science, literature, and music, but we're also giving them experience with them the American legal system by inducing them to sue the F%$# out of us."

  • by jginspace ( 678908 ) <jginspace@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:02AM (#15399666) Homepage Journal

    ...it's a good preparation for real life.

  • by tknn ( 675865 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:02AM (#15399667) Homepage
    Hopefully the school board settles quickly and cans the people. Last thing they want to do is lose all that money they are going to in a clear-cut 1st amendment case....
    • Last thing they want to do is lose all that money they are going to in a clear-cut 1st amendment case....

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

      So the school is reading that as a veiled threat. I think that is an overreaction, but schools are damned if they do, and damned if they don't. If

      • by Karl Cocknozzle ( 514413 ) <.kcocknozzle. .at. .hotmail.com.> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:06AM (#15400427) Homepage
        Here's the post, FYI:
        you are bully's. I feel threatened by you. if you don't like what you see here then do not come here its that simple. I'm pretty sure when you suspended Sam you brought her to tears, you are a bully and you make me sick. there's nothing you can do about us posting about parties we've been to and how much liquor we had or how much pot was smoked, the police need to do a better job, you are not the police. and how is it that you feel threatened what was said that was so threatening. I feel threatened by you, I cant even have a public web page with out you bullying me and telling me what has to be removed. where is this freedom of speech that this government is sworn to uphold? none of this is posted at school, its all posted from our home computers, and once we step foot into our homes we are not on school property any more. you are just power hungry, don't you ever think? did you stop to think that maybe this will make parents angry that you are bullying their children around? did you ever stop to think that maybe now you really are going to have a threat on your hands now that you have just pissed off kids for voicing their opinions? did you ever stop to think this will start a community backlash? The kids at Columbine did what they did because they were bullied. In my opinion you are the real threat here. None of us ever put in our xanga's that they were going to kill or bring harm to any one. we voiced our opinions. you are the real threat here. you are depriving us of our right to learn. now stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

        Bold/italic emphasis mine, since this is probably the part that allowed the small-minded administrators at the school to take action... Since when is BRINGING UP Columbine automatically a veiled threat? In the context of a threatening message, it could be considered that, certainly. Yet, if you read it in context here it doesn't seem threatening at all. It seems like a statement of fact: The kids at Columbine were bullied, and there's very little difference between bullying committed by students as opposed to faculty/staff. Telling somebody to shut up for criticizing you could be described as bullying...

        Certainly, what he has written here is not fine literature, but hardly a "Veiled threat." He was, inartfully, making the point that by punishing students for blog posts in order to "protect the kids" the school administration might, ironically, be creating the very problem it seeks to prevent. He explicitly says they didn't intend to threaten anybody, simply posting reactions to events from their own lives as an act of free expression.

        This is a clear over-reach by the school system--He didn't post the page from school on their computer or internet connection, he did it from home. Further, other media sources have indicated that Xanga/MySpace/Friendster (the "social networking" sites) aren't accessible from the school, so there is no chance of this kid's web-site being "disruptive to the educational process," which was the last standard I am aware of for determining whether a school can abridge student civili rights or not. The school's claim that the message was threatening is dubious at best when taken in context.

        It seems more likely that some administrators came down hard on somebody this person knew, and he wrote a scathing (in its own way) response that depicts those administrators as ogres. Instead of disrupting the school with a protest, he went home and wrote constitutionally protected editorial article on his web-site. Administrators decided to further-overreact by suspending him and threatening expulsion. Now they're really up shit creek, because if they back down they're "caving" in the eyes of everybody because of the previous hardline stance they've taken. If they go forward and expel him, it essentially validates everything in the kid's post--that they are taking away kids educational opportunities.
  • Hilarious (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jimmyhat3939 ( 931746 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:03AM (#15399669) Homepage
    What's hilarious about that is where I live, in the SF Bay Area, a student can basically walk into class and beat the crap out of his teacher and still not get expelled.

    Expel more people, I say. The pendulum needs to swing back the other way a little bit.

    • Re:Hilarious (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wootest ( 694923 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:21AM (#15400479)
      So what you're saying is that they should expel the guy who wrote stuff in his private weblog outside of school time on his own premises because other people that are more violent do not get expelled? What kind of example would this set? "Sure, bring a knife to school, just don't keep your web site updated from home."?

      If there's a pendulum that needs to swing back, it would seem to me that it would swing back on the people that actually did something wrong.
  • thats all right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rooked_One ( 591287 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:07AM (#15399678) Journal
    we weren't using our rights anyways........ dot dot dot
  • Nothing New (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slifox ( 605302 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:07AM (#15399683)
    This is nothing new. Most schools, even in areas that are highly "liberal," try to control their students' thoughts and actions to the point of extreme.

    Illinois state law says that schools are allowed to act in the best interest of a student, as a parent when the parent is not around (ie, during school days). It does not say schools can discipline students for their thoughts and actions outside of school and not during school time. However, schools are taking it upon themselves to do this regardless.

    I find depriving a student of his 1st ammendment rights or his education not in his "best interest."

    This must stop. The only way it will happen is having cases like this go to court, and schools finally exposed for what they are doing.
    • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tob ( 7310 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @04:26AM (#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.

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

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

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

      Apparently not long...

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

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

        Such a "contract" would be as illegal as the paper that it was written on. No goverment entity (and public schools are government entities) can make you sign away your right to free speech, petition, etc on your own time
        • Such a "contract" would be as illegal as the paper that it was written on.

          1) That's not a contract, it's an agreement. They're very different things in the eyes of the law.
          2) There is nothing illegal about such an agreement, and that agreement is binding. The only agreements and contracts which are invalid are those signed under duress, those signed by people unable to represent themselves such as unemancipated minors, and those contracts which require the signator to do something illegal.

          Be very careful about the wording of #2. That doesn't say "those which require someone to do something that the law does not allow without an agreement." For example, I can happily sign an agreement with you such that neither of us wear green clothes which has a monetary penalty clause. Assuming the contract is signed by competant individuals outside of duress, then whichever of us first wears green clothes is liable for that penalty. It doesn't matter that a school can't expel us for wearing green clothes; we've entered into a binding agreement.

          The thing that's actually actionable here is that the school requires the agreement for acceptance, and that the clause regards someone's fundamental rights. Mind you, this sort of clause is actually common in the real world; one place where Slashdot is quite used to the idea is in the communication clause of a noncompete contract. If you work for WidgetInc, you can't give any tech advice to CommonControlCorp for a year, that sort of thing. The courts uphold specific obligations to personal topical censorship all the time.

          The problem is that the school district requires the students to sign the agreement. THAT is illegal. You cannot require someone who is already a member of a public service to sign an agreement to remain a member. (You can if it's a private service.) Furthermore, you can only require someone to sign an agreement to use a public service if there is another equivalent public service within reasonable availability to the person. That's how magnet schools add restrictions like dress code and behavior code to their system: if the kid doesn't want to sign the agreement, they're welcome to go to the normal public school.

          The issue, in the eyes of the court, is simply whether a person dependant on a public service has the option to use a public service without entering into agreements which they don't want. As long as there's one public school available to a kid which doesn't have asinine agreements, the others can require things like that all they want. They cannot, however, require that of their existing students; only their new ones.

          What the school is doing here isn't actually to curtail the student's rights at all. It's a misguided attempt at self protection. The school wants legal leeway so that if they see something they think but cannot legally prove is a threat, that they can act on it without getting bent over a crate. This is a common fear in current school systems, and principals ignorant of the law are frequently doing this believing they're acting in the best interest of the school's ability to keep itself safe. Were it not for the disasterous results of their misapplication, they'd actually be doing an admirable thing.

          The principals, unfortunately, are not apparently aware that they are able to expel a kid simply because they believe the kid is a threat. (Go ask a lawyer - it's true.) Once someone knows that, then this agreement becomes a horrible after-effect of the glad-handed attempt to seal the school up from liability. This sort of behavior is common in leadership which is more interested in being safe from liability than being safe from legitimate liability. The latter stance is important, but requires clueful legal counsel - something most public schools don't have.

          Be less angry at the school board. They're trying to do the right thing. They just don't know how. Instead of telling them how awful they are, gently and kindly explain why what they're doin
  • Compared to overseas (Score:5, Informative)

    by ajdlinux ( 913987 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:14AM (#15399699) Homepage Journal
    What is it with Americans and expulsion? Here in Australia if someone gets expelled it is because they have done something absolutely crazy that in America probably would have them in prison or something like that, e.g. bashing up other students. Even something like swearing in front of the teacher, depending on the school, may only get you suspended.
    • Teachers (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mark_MF-WN ( 678030 )
      For some reason, teachers here think that they are gods inside schools. They consider themselves to have total authority, despite the fact that they take zero responsilibity for anything that happens inside schools. Consider bullying -- if you tried that at your workplace, you'd be lucky if you just got fired. More likely, you'd end up being sued into destitution or thrown in jail. And yet teachers do nothing to stop it, and spend their time expelling students who dare to complain about conditions in sc
  • It's in IL, not NJ (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mister Transistor ( 259842 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:14AM (#15399702) Journal
    New Jersey doesn't have a monopoly on Plainfields. There are many other Plainfields like it, but this one is mine. ;)

    Clue: it's in the CHICAGO Sun-Times.

    Further clue: from TFA - "Joliet Police".

    I live near there - Plainfield is where the big Tornado disaster occurred about 12-13 years ago.
  • by aurelito ( 566884 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:16AM (#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 DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:16AM (#15399705) Homepage Journal
    We likely don't know all the facts to this story, things can sound very clear cut depending on how you synopsize them, however I think blogs will eventually have to be considered as something between public and private. Various organizations will have to be banned from acting based on any information obtained from them -- perhaps even banned from actively searching them out without legal cause.

    Odd how these threats to basic rights seem to come from the Left and the Right equally. Nobody in the extreme can ever stand dissenting opinion.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Odd how these threats to basic rights seem to come from the Left and the Right equally. Nobody in the extreme can ever stand dissenting opinion.

      That's because extremists of all stripes are more alike than almost anyone else. Visualize the range of ideologies as a sphere. You immediately notice that the 'extremes' (in your example, far left and far right) are actually right next to each other on the sphere. The only thing that seperates them are the specifics of their ideology - in all other aspects, they

  • don't have time?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by guardiangod ( 880192 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:16AM (#15399706)
    [mother]:"I asked, 'If this is such a serious threat, did you call the FBI?' They said, 'No, we don't have time for this.' I asked, 'Did you call the Joliet police?' and they said, 'no.'"

    Don't have time? Don't have time?!

    So what you are saying basically is that, rather than going thru the annoying route of reporting to the police, you are just going to expel the kid? I guess the kid's 60 years worth of future is too unimportant compared to your job huh? I mean, we wouldn't want your daily wanking^h^h^h^h^h^h administration sessions be interrupted.

    I can't believe this. We are entrusting our childen to these...educators?! No wonder Columbine happened you idiots.

    Remember, to a school, there are thousand of students; To a student, however, there is only one school. So please, get it right.
  • Not Surpised (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Comatose51 ( 687974 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:17AM (#15399709) Homepage
    Thinking back on high school, omes teachers and school administrators were pretty insecure, petty people who liked to use their positions to bully students. Sometimes teachers/administrators can be just as childish as the students they teach. Most of them will never admit that they're wrong. If you argue them into a corner, you're told to drop the discussion or face disciplinary action. Compared to college, high school was not a place that promoted learning or thinking. There was one thing high school promoted and that was blind obediance to authority. Of course there are many good high schools across this country and obediance to authority to some extend is good. However, I'm not surprised that there are other schools like mine across this country run by insecure administrators who feel the need to bully students.

    Ironically, one of the books I had to read for high school was "All Quiet on the Western Front". The drill sergeant in the book was a postman prior to the war so he felt the need to abuse the recruits. He knew that outside of his position in the heirarchy, no one respected him as a person so he abused his powers as a drill sergeant to make himself feel better. Reminds me of some school administrators... Sad bastards.

  • Power (Score:5, Insightful)

    by massivefoot ( 922746 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:21AM (#15399721)
    I think the problem here is power. During school hours a student is of course a student has to be expected to obey school rules, conform to standards of behaviour, respect staff etc. Unfortunately, the teachers at this school appear to have got it into their heads that this includes complete control over the student's communications. I remember at my old highschool our headteacher once suspended a pupil for having a mohican haircut, despite the school's published unifrom code stating nothing about haircuts. When parents complained she didn't seem to understand why anyone objected to her making up and enforcing rules at will.

    The student should be commended for what he did. If he is genuinely being "threatened" and "bullied" by his school then he not only had a right but something of a duty to inform others of that, and yes, he should be in court, but as a plaintiff, not a defendant.
  • bullies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChrisGilliard ( 913445 ) <[christopher.gilliard] [at] [gmail.com]> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:22AM (#15399728) Homepage
    I really wonder what the discussion was like at the school board meeting. It's like: Hey, we can't let this guy get away with calling us bullies. What should we do about it? Hmmm, lets threaten to expell him. That will teach him. The sad truth is I've seen similar things in the corporate world. Maybe this is a good lesson on how the world works (as a previous poster mentioned).
  • by egarland ( 120202 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:38AM (#15399785)
    I'm all for schools teaching kids good behavior but there are a few things they do that are both wrong and just plain illegal. Things schools should keep in mind:

    Schools are mandatory. School attendance is not optional in the US. Kids have to go. There are a few who have the means to attend alternatives but those who don't are forced to attend public schools no matter what.

    Schools are part of the government. Like police and judges our schools are government bodies. You can not give schools the ability to force the removal of fundamental rights. Judges can't. Police can't. Schools *MUST* be bound by the bill of rights including the right to free speech. They don't have the right to take that away much like they don't have the right to take your life away (forget detention.. you're going to the gas chamber.) You could argue that schools should be allowed to control speech in school creating short periods of time when their rights are suspended, although it's probably a bad idea. To say they have the ability to remove fundamental rights from people altogether is completely ludicrous. No federal, state or local government body can have that power. Granted, the bill of rights only specifically mentions federal government, the trend lately seems to be ruling that the 14'th amendment extends the bill of rights to state and local government. This would include schools.

    The other thing that it's important to note is that speech restriction is essentially creating thought crimes and the effects are usually precisely the opposite of what was intended. Discouraging open exchange only worsens the problem that we are trying to ignore or make invisible. The first amendment exists for this reason and it's for this reason we should defend it absolutely without question always. Everyone has a right to be heard.
    • Two points. The first is that children are a special case. They are purposely discriminated against. The second is that schools are not there to teach you to think. They are there to indoctrinate you and prepare you for the workforce.
  • I'm confused (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LockeOnLogic ( 723968 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @03:50AM (#15399819)
    What the hell was a school official doing reading random a students xanga? Do these people have no lives at all?
  • by E8086 ( 698978 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @04:03AM (#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 @04:04AM (#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.
  • Happened to me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by delirium of disorder ( 701392 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @04:36AM (#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.
    • Re:Happened to me (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The difference is, schools have the right to filter what you view while in school. As long as they provide a complete education on mandated topics, they are not required to allow you to access irrelevant sites. If a school decides to block site with flash minigames, they can. If they block out pornagraphic sites, that's their (good) decision. They have that right. By circumventing their authority willfully, you have disobeyed the school, interfered with their rights, and encouraged others to do so also. The
    • Re:Happened to me (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:36AM (#15400077) Homepage
      What a dumbass. You intentionally bypassed the schools internet filter by setting up your own proxy server (dumb in and of itself). What's even stupider though is you told your fellow students about it. Lesson number one when you're doing something "wrong" is you don't tell anyone, especially kids. People will talk, and you'll get caught.

      I suppose you feel like the Chinese dissident, smashing the opression of the schools internet filter (i.e. "combatting censorship on the internet). Of course unlike chinese dissidents you can go home to an unfiltered internet and read whatever you want. The only thing you accomplished was thumbing your nose at authority by jumping the little kiddie fence they erected. Filters are in general a bad idea, and will always be able to be bypassed by people with minimal knowledge. But bucking authority isn't going to get that policy changed one bit. More likely it will only strengthen the resolve of your enemies.

      If you really wanted to change the policy you'd investigate what sites are blocked by the filter and started writing about it. Appeal to both sides. Does it filter out Planned Parenthood or the ACLU? How about Rush Limbaugh or the Christian Coalition? Many people hear filtering and only assume they're filtering out porn sites. A more stark comparison of the reality of filtering is far more convincing than hearing about some dumb kid who thinks he's smarter than the school administrators (even if that does happen to be true in the case of networking technology).
  • Here's his website (Score:5, Informative)

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

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

  • by JayBees ( 124568 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @04:52AM (#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 @05:24AM (#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 :-(
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:21AM (#15400172) Journal
    Everyone here seems to feel the student has the right to freespeech. Okay, does his teacher have the same rights? Does the school? Can they say anything they want about him? Put a blog up about how this kid pissed himself on the school trip and cried for his mommy?

    Tell the world he didn't bring a date to the prom?

    Freespeech always seems to be onsided.

    Frankly in this case I don't know what to think. I myself have once done a school project where we had to make a brochure about something. I parodied the school brochure but highlighted stuff like the fact the computer room could not be used outside class hours and other lacking facilities.

    Got called into the directors office but nothing major, he just wanted to ask wich of them were true, and they were corrected. Turned out that the stuff I found stupid were never intended to be that way but had just evolved over the years.

    Granted this was holland and nobody had heard of school shootings. Then again I used humor and didn't insult anyone.

    As always there is probably a fine line with the case of what people are allowed to say, I just wonder if all the people defending the right of students to insult teachers feel that teachers have the same right to insult their students. Cause I am pretty sure that if teachers were allowed they have some real cursing to get off their chest.

    • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:10AM (#15400440)
      In either case, both should be legally free to post whatever they like about each other - bearing in mind that both can still be sued for libel if what they write is incorrect and defamatory. However, the teacher should, and probably would, face additional penalties if they posted something like that, as it constitutes unprofessional behaviour. For the teacher, the school is an employer like any other. The school can sack the teacher for the same reason any employer could. However, to the student, the school is not an employer, it is a representative of the government.
  • by MadMacSkillz ( 648319 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:44AM (#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.

  • by GeniusLoci ( 977031 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:31AM (#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).
  • by l3v1 ( 787564 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:51AM (#15400389)
    If someone works for a company, then it's really no question that the person would not go unpunished if speaking derogatory or so about his company. Here we're talking about schools, schools' rights regarding controlling the children inside and outside of the school. Usually I wouldn't have anything against schools regulating children's behavior etc. when they are in school. Yet, I would not let any school or teacher interfere into my child's life outside of school, no matter what.

    Children need to learn, and they need to learn that hard, that they _have_ the right to speak their minds about anything. I know of many cases (RL, not bedtime stories) when people just didn't dare to voice their opinion about something - even if they were right - in fear the commencing trouble wouldn't worth the fuss. Children need to be taught so that when they will become adults they will think about basic human rights as being so natural to use as breathing.

    If a child learns that (s)he is not allowed to say anything bad about those in authority (and for a kid the teachers are such) that can become a real barrier later on in their lives.

    I know I'm possibly going too far with this, still, if a child wants to tell anything (s)he wants about the school, the teachers, etc. at home, for us or on his/her personal web page, I really think nobody should stop him/her unless it conflicts with some (general, social, family, etc.) ethics, but then again, that should be the responsibility of the family and of the parents, not of the school or of the teacher.

    I always thought that teachers should be "educators" and "guardians" and "signposts", and not some governesses, or self-appointed mind police officers.

    If a school would sue me or my child because spoke his/her opinion about them, I just wouldn't want my kid in that school any longer, let alone fear of some expel.

  • by JumperCable ( 673155 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:08AM (#15400434)
    Hands down, across the board school systems have always empowered the bullies. And anyone who is bullied who tries to do something about it gets victimized twice over.

    Schools, the press & the public are so concerned over issues like Columbine that they still just don't get it. These poor kids keep on getting abused over & over again. The teachers won't do anything, the principal won't do anything even when you bring it to their attention.

    Being at the bottom of the pecking order at school, no one ever told me it was OK to fight back (except for one gym teacher & that was later in my school career when. I was afraid I would get in trouble. Which I would have, but the end result would have been better. Back then I didn't have the perspective that a detention here or there would not have been that big of a deal. It certainly doesn't faze the bullies.

    If you are young & in school & being bullied. Here is what I suggest:
    1. First stop go ahead & tell a teacher & your parents.
    2. If that teacher does nothing, tell another teacher. Keep on telling all the teachers you have until one listens to you.
    3. If that fails, tell the principal.
    4. If that fails & you go to a religious school tell the pastor, rabbi, priest or whomever is in charge of the congregation. This is essentially going up the chain of command.
    5. If you are being physically assaulted in any way off of school grounds & the school does nothing call the cops. The cops might try to blow you off, but insist on filing an assault complaint. Do the same if the assault occurs on school ground and the school refuses do anything about it.
    6. Keep a log of the abuse. Who you told about it & what that person did about it if anything.
    7. If you have run through all these options, start fighting back against physical abuse. Yes. You will get in trouble. But bullies prefer to go after the ones who don't fight back. You will probably get pummeled. Just make sure you get in a good right hook. Try not to be a spaze. Bullies love to get a reaction out of you.
    8. Don't become the bully yourself. Fight back is defense, not offense.
    9. Consider some self-defense classes (For defense, don't become the aggressor). Bullies will pass you over for easier targets.
    10. Do something about your social awkwardness. Get involved with some clubs. Being social is a skill to learn. Bullies prefer victims who don't have friends. Boy scouts, soccer, gaming clubs, archery, swimming, find a way to interact with more people. You'll get better at it.
    11. Keep in mind that you will grow out of this. As people get older, they tend to appreciate other's differences. What made you the bottom of the gene pool in grade school will probably be really cool in college.
  • 1st Amendment (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AviLazar ( 741826 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:30AM (#15400925) Journal
    I recently made a post [slashdot.org] about first amendment rights, where it applies and where it does not.

    This is where 1st amendment rights apply. The school is being a bully. They handeled this poorly, and it leads me to believe they actually have treated this kid bad previously.
  • by Mainusch ( 20215 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:48AM (#15401061)
    Once again, we take a legitimate concern like bullying, and overreact such that anyone who feels the slightest bit offended by something someone else does screams "I'm being bullied!" Bullying is a real problem. To shout "Bully!" when someone in a position of authority exercises that authority, however, diminishes the real cases of bullying.

    This kid made very public, albeit veiled threats of violence against the school administration simply because he "felt bullied." The threats were so veiled, I'm not really sure they cross the line. However, the administration has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for the staff and student body in order to facilitate the primary mission, which is to advance student learning. They must, in many cases, use their best judgment in discerning what constitutes a threat of violence against the staff and/or student body.

    The principal knows this kid, and his history. We, the random readers of Slashdot, do not. The principal is in the thick of this situation, whereas all we know is what one reporter has written about it. The principal is charged with the responsibility of protecting the school. We are not.

    If this kid took it further, and actually did something to which he had been alluding, the argument would now be that the administration is inept for not taking action when he had clearly made threats. To prevent action simply based on the notion that the principal is "bullying" the kid is grotesque.

    Give the principal the slack his position deserves.
    • RTFA carefully (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JetScootr ( 319545 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:57AM (#15401154) Journal
      The deputy chief of police of Joliet said there wasn't a threat. The school was asked "If you thought there was a threat, did you call the police or FBI?". The school said they didn't contact FBI or Police. How threatened did the school admins really feel? apparently not much. Comparing your current situation to a past situation where something really bad happened is not threatening. It's a comparison.
      Regardless of the kid's history, the school has *no*frickin*authority* to control the behavior of kids outside of school. NONE WHATEVER, even if the kids are talking about school or using school books to do homework, or whatever.
      No level of government, from school teachers to the US president, has the authority to dictate to anyone what they put on their own website outside of school.
      And yes, this constitutes governmental bullying of someone with a dissenting opinion.
  • by dgr9449 ( 560850 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:03AM (#15401197) Homepage
    There's been a lot of fuss and bother about this issue, but it this question (Do students enjoy Free Speech?) has already been decided. And been decided more than once.

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

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

    Let me quote a little of the decision:

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

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

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

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

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