Where do schools legally draw the line on online pranks, bullying and insults?

computer (Medium)A high school honor student in Pennsylvania created a parody MySpace profile for his principal that included such comments as “Birthday: too drunk to remember.”

Suspended by the school and banned from extracurricular activities, 17-year-old Justin Layshock and his parents sued on the grounds that his First Amendment rights were violated and won, including $10,000 in compensatory damages.

In its 2011 ruling upholding the student’s victory, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decreed, “It would be an unseemly and dangerous precedent to allow the state, in the guise of school authorities, to reach into a child’s home and control his/her actions there to the same extent that it can control that child when he/she participates in school-sponsored activities.” The court felt that the parody – circulated to a limited number of the student’s classmates — did not create a substantial disruption of the school.

A student in West Virginia did not fare as well in her legal challenge of a suspension for creating a MySpace page that mocked a fellow student for having herpes. Kara Kowalski maintained that the Berkeley County system had no authority to censure her cyber cruelty because she created the offensive page outside of school.

In ruling against Kowalski, a cheerleader and her high school’s reigning “Queen of Charm,” the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals  for the Fourth Circuit decreed noted that the mean-spirited website — Students Against Shay’s Herpes — was created to ridicule a classmate and was directed to a student audience.

The court noted, “Kowalski used the Internet to orchestrate a targeted attack on a classmate, and did so in a manner that was sufficiently connected to the school environment as to implicate the school district’s recognized authority to discipline speech which materially and substantially interferes with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school and collides with the rights of others.”

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the opportunity to reconcile these disparate rulings, leaving school systems in limbo over the escalating collision between online student speech and school safety, standards and stability.

The law now allows schools to restrict student speech that “disrupts classwork,” creates “substantial disorder” or collides with “the rights of others.” But those criteria have historically been applied to speech and actions within the “schoolhouse gate.” The question yet to be definitively answered by the Court is whether the gate ought to swing wide enough to encompass MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and smart phones.

The judges in the Queen of Charm case pushed the gate wider, concluding, “Kowalski indeed pushed her computer’s keys in her home, but she knew that the electronic response would be, as it in fact was, published beyond her home and could reasonably be expected to reach the school or impact the school environment. ”

But a federal court in Florida ruled that it was protected speech when a high school senior created a Facebook page proclaiming her teacher by name as “the worst teacher I’ve ever met” and inviting classmates to “express your feelings of hatred.” On the other hand, a California federal court upheld a school’s decision to suspend and transfer a middle-school student who created a slide show depicting the murder of her teacher.

Because of the conflicting rulings and the Supreme Court’s refusal to set clearer parameters, attorneys are cautioning schools systems to proceed carefully when addressing online attacks by students on teachers, principals and other students.

But schools cannot ignore it, as two recent Florida cases illustrate. On Feb. 14, two Gainesville High School students indulged in ugly racist rantings about their classmates on a YouTube video that quickly went viral. A few days later, two ninth graders in Lantana posted another shocking racist video on YouTube — this one also disparaging black classmates — that quickly found a worldwide audience and worldwide condemnation.

Threats to the girls forced both schools to go on alert and bring in additional police officers.

The mother of one of the Gainesville students — whose names have not been released because they are minors and who have now withdrawn from the school — sent a letter to the Gainesville Sun, pleading, “While we can never take back the words and actions that these two children have said, we have to start to heal and forgive immediately. Stop the violent threats to our homes and our children, stop the anger, because this will solve absolutely nothing, and most importantly, look at yourself for change and love.”

A Georgia system had to deal with an online threat this week. A 17-year-old North Forsyth High School student was arrested Wednesday for threatening students on Facebook, authorities said. The student was charged with one count of terroristic threats for posting threats against fellow students, Forsyth County Sheriff’s officials said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

55 comments Add your comment


March 2nd, 2012
6:53 am

My view is that the schools have enough to worry about within the boundaries of the school. As demonstrated in this article, there are civil and criminal legal remedies for student’s activities outside the schoolyard such as slander/libel, terroristic threats, etc.


March 2nd, 2012
7:47 am

The school is in an awkward position. If they suspend a student for what is perceived as disruptive behavior OFF campus, they risk the challenge of a law suit over a first amendment right.. If they are aware of the potential harmful/damaging threat (off campus) and do nothing, when an incident or attack happens on campus, they also have exposure for not acting a potential security issue.

Atlanta Mom

March 2nd, 2012
7:55 am

Their parents must be so proud.

Dr. Monica Henson

March 2nd, 2012
8:08 am

When I was a principal, I banned Airsoft guns from our campus because the school resource officer pointed out that they resemble real weapons and were difficult to distinguish (I think they now have orange dots or some other distinguishing mark). The student newspaper cartoonist drew a cartoon of me with a student on the ground, with my knee on his back like a police officer, “calling for backup” from the SRO on my walkie-talkie.

I visited the journalism classroom to express to the newspaper staff that I loved the cartoon, but I stood by my position. We had a great discussion of student free speech rights, the First Amendment, and journalism in general. The kids were surprised to find that school administrators have broad authority to restrict student speech in school publications. I had been a reporter on my own high school newspaper, and was editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, so this was a great opportunity for me to connect with students on a different level than simply being the principal.

Student speech in school newspapers can provide the opportunity for excellent “teachable moments.” Student speech online that is designed to hurt classmates should be treated, in my professional opinion, as bullying that disrupts the academic environment. Student speech online that disparages teachers and/or administrators may or may not cross that threshold. It’s interesting to watch this issue evolve as the law catches up to technology.

V for Vendetta

March 2nd, 2012
8:43 am

Sticks and stones. I agree with Lee on this one. There are laws outside of the school environment for this. If it is not a criminal matter, then why should the school even bother addressing it?


March 2nd, 2012
9:28 am

@V – answer to your question – because they want to control every aspect of the students’ lives.

@Atlanta Mom – the parents may not be proud but that is not the issue. Free speech is the issue.

Beverly Fraud

March 2nd, 2012
9:53 am

Is it fair to say, at least in many cases, that those parents who scream loudest about their child’s “rights” would have an ABSOLUTE FIT if the same things were said about THEIR child?

Atlanta Mom

March 2nd, 2012
9:54 am

I can tell you that lack of extracurricular activites would have been the least of my child’s problems had she pulled a stunt like that.

Parent Teacher

March 2nd, 2012
9:57 am

This is just another example of the challenges teachers and schools have to face when educating children. Dealing with distinct personalities, discipline, varying socioeconomics, different learning styles, free speech as well as many other factors that go into teaching children.

The fact is a student’s actions and behavior off campus affects the on campus behavior. If the actions off campus cause issues at school then they should be addressed. Parents should be more concerned about teaching their children that it is not ok to ridicule teachers, administrators, other students or anyone through any type of media. The lesson from the parents who support these children is that it is ok to disrespect teachers and adminstrators as well as other students. This is not the message that should be sent. If I were threatened by a student I would fight as hard as possible to have the student charged with terroristic threats and prosecuted.

Expressing anger, frustration, dislike is one think but making up lies to intentionally slander anyone is wrong and should not be protected as free speach.

Beverly Fraud

March 2nd, 2012
10:19 am

Two TELLING statements from the ruling (paraphrased)

-When the father asked the suspension be reduced or revoked

Perfect response dad. ENABLE your child to act like a complete, total jerk.

-Kowalski clamed she was given the cold treatment as a result of the suspension.

Perfect (no sarcasm this time) If you CHOOSE to act like a complete, total jerk, you deserve to be OSTRACIZED.


March 2nd, 2012
11:07 am

Some of you act as though free speech is an absolute right protected by the First Amendment. It is not. The court has put numerous restraints on speech. Slander and libel are not protected speech. The school adminstrators should go after the families for every penny they have.

North GA Parent

March 2nd, 2012
11:08 am

I don’t think the real issue here IS free speech – I think the real issue is taking responsibility for your actions. So when you choose to exercise your right to free speech in a manner that, while maybe not apparent at the outset, is harmful, there ARE repercussions.

And I don’t mean “hurt feelings” – in my opinion, it seems as though there are a LOT of people who spend a LOT of time having hurt feelings and/or looking for things to be offended by. You know, you just aren’t going to agree with EVERYONE’S opinions ALL of the time, and that is perfectly okay, and as it should be.

What I am referring to by “harmful” is when the words someone says/writes escalate into some physical act, either by the target of the words, or those who read/hear them. THIS is where it gets to be problematic, because parents, schools, other people in general, do not KNOW what may be the flash point in a particular situation. So while schools and law enforcement have to constantly tread this line, and in each case have to come up on one side or the other, WE as parents ought to be teaching our kids that while free speech IS their right, ABUSING it is NOT, and if there is fallout, then it is not just the speaker or the intended victim that may have to deal with it, it may be much more far-reaching than that.

If school shootings and other violence – which certainly were NOT a part of my middle & high school culture 25 years ago – have taught us anything, they ought to be lessons in tolerance, of being less critical or judgmental, and maybe most importantly, the simple idiom “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. My kids know that if they do something like the things covered by this article, the school’s discipline will be a drop in the bucket to what they will get at home – and hopefully knowing this, it will make them think before they say or write something that can’t ever be taken back.


March 2nd, 2012
11:44 am

I’m not sure what the problem reconciling these cases is. It seems to me that harassment of a fellow student where the audience is other students can be regulated, but criticism or ridicule of a teacher or administrator (that doesn’t rise to the level of threats or hate speech) cannot be regulated.

Hillbilly D

March 2nd, 2012
12:16 pm

Back in my day, there were paddles with holes drilled in them. That was pretty effective.


March 2nd, 2012
12:30 pm

@ Lee, 6:53 am. I too agree with you here.

HS Public Teacher

March 2nd, 2012
12:43 pm

If you listen to some on the school blogs, schools are responsible for everything, everywhere, all of the time.

HS Public Teacher

March 2nd, 2012
12:46 pm

Two middle schools girls got into a fight off campus and off school hours. One was beaten up badly. The mother went to her teacher and requested for her to speak to the girls. Out of the helping nature of the teacher, she planned to do so the following Monday.

In the meantime, the beaten girl slipped into a coma and died.

The mother is suing the teacher, the school, and the school system.

True story from LA from about a month ago…..

Hillbilly D

March 2nd, 2012
12:53 pm

The mother is suing the teacher, the school, and the school system.

They always go after whoever they perceive to have the deepest pockets. I don’t see how they could possibly win but you never know what might go on in court. It’s like playing the lottery for some people.

Old Physics Teacher

March 2nd, 2012
1:04 pm

The offended school board employee should be listed as the claimant and the school board should foot the initial up-front cost for the lawsuit against the PARENTS of the defendant as the defendant is a minor child which makes the PARENTS responsible for their behavior. Let the LOCAL judge decide that the party that is found to be at fault has to pay a fine, court cost, BOTH attorney fees, and restitution. After one or two sets of PARENTS per state have to file for bankruptcy, (cost somewhere in the ten’s of thousands – CASH) the problem will disappear.

As long as SOCIETY holds the school responsible for the Parent’s actions, or lack thereof, these types of things will continue to occur. When the PARENTS are held accountable for THEIR actions, or lack thereof, (children are rarely born bad), this type of misbehavior will end.


March 2nd, 2012
1:05 pm

If you are stupid enough to put something on line which may be slanderous or disparaging…. you should be brave enough to take whatever insults and consequences that come your way, after all most cyber-bullies are cowards anyway. Unfortunately the laws haven’t caught up with cyber-attacks, this goes way beyond the note that’s pass or the dirty talk scribble on the bathroom wall. No one was injured or died because of it. Sad but true kids have always made fun of things they don’t understand or like (even some adults have this problem) most bullies come from a home where they are bullied themselves, but the things that are occurring today with kids, goes beyond free-speech…..pretty pathetic and it’s eroding our society.


March 2nd, 2012
1:28 pm

“True story from LA from about a month ago…..”

If by “true story,” you mean “grossly exaggerated story,” then yes!

The fight happened on school property; immediately after school; the teacher was told by another student, not a parent; and no lawsuit has been filed. So really, in almost every respect, the story is the complete opposite of what you think it is.


March 2nd, 2012
2:05 pm

Had the parents been monitoring the myspace web site that was created on the parents computer, then they could have reacted and deleted the posts/web page.
But as with a lot of parents in this day and age they feel that they need to give their child room to grow….
THey can grow when they start paying their own rent. when you are in my house everything in my house belongs to the parents.
If I can go to jail for something you types then i have the right to review/erase any blog, website, etc. without issue.
And if you do not like it go find your own house…don’t call me to come bail you out…..just sayin..


March 2nd, 2012
2:15 pm

@Frankie…..you are the type of parent that is needed in the 21st century. Just say no to the pushover parents. In my day privacy was something you had when you bought your own home.

Ron F.

March 2nd, 2012
2:45 pm

Beverly-@9:53. Agreed! It’s all okay until it happens to you or yours and then it’s on!

Because kids access their social media pages during the school day (and it doesn’t matter what the school’s policy is, you’d be amazed how many find a way!), is it really exercising free speech outside the school when it’s about a school employee? The law does give schools a little more control over free speech inside the school. This is a good lesson for us all- what we post on social media, while allowed as part of our free speech rights, can have repercussions beyond what we ever imagined. I’ve used every example that comes up to show my two at home how far one’s seemingly innocuous comments can go when posted online or in a text.

As I’ve told mine, once you post it online, it becomes the property of the world and you may have to pay a price for that. We simply can’t assume that what we post online is just ours and will go away when we want it to- it stays forever.


March 3rd, 2012
10:40 am

If we forbid the student from criticizing his principal online then we must also forbid and punish all the bloggers on this site because:

ALL OF US ON THIS ONLINE BLOG criticize and parody our government officials and each other on this blog. Beverly Fraud would be banned. Maureen would be banned. ALL of us would be banned and punished.

Freedom of expressoin and freedom of speech mean just that. It is a fundamental part of our freedom.

In order for us to be free we must be free to criticize our government and teachers and the education system IS government.

Red, white and blue
Good Mother

To jbrami you are not acquainted

March 3rd, 2012
10:48 am

Jbrami, you are not familiar with court cases involvng this subject. A while ago an evangelist preacher was parodied in Hustler magazine. It was a piece that looked like a genuine news article taht showed teh evangelist preacher telling the readers about his first se$ual experience with…his own mother. The preacher was Jerry Fallwell.

Jerry sued and lost. The reason? First amendment rights. No one in their usual healthy state of mind would reasonably believe that Jerry Fallwell would really be giving an interview and talk about with delight about is first se&ual experience with his own mother. Every reader understood taht Jerry was being parodied and criticizzed.

Jbrami your name indicates you might not have lived in the US all your life. You may need to catch up on your reading in freedom of the press and first amendment rights. Just because freedom of speech is illegal elsewhere, doesn’t make it so here.

Red White and Blue
Good Mother

Isn't it funny?

March 3rd, 2012
11:11 am

isn’t it funny that many teacher-bloggers here condemn the student for criticizing a principal online but….

when a teacher posted a picture of herself drinking alcohol online and was pressured to resign….

all of them upheld the rights of teh teacher saying she had the freedom to do it…

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Pick a side and stick to it.

If a student must be banned then so do teachers.

In my democratic society that I believe in….freedom of speech and freedom of the press is fundamental to freedom. The pen IS mightier than the sword and we must protect our right to speak our minds.

I may disagree with many of you but I defend your right to say it. I have always welcomed criticism, even when it is point and especially when it is directed AT ME.

Red White Blue
Good Mother

Maureen Downey

March 3rd, 2012
11:13 am

@GM, Not to pour gasoline on a fire that never burns out…but a teacher posting routine travel photos of herself with a glass a wine in a French cafe is very different than someone hijacking your photo and name, creating a fake online profile and filling it with crude and hurtful information.

To Dr. Monica Henson

March 3rd, 2012
11:14 am

I am thankful you did what you did. You said why you didn’t believe in taking Airsoft guns to school YET you allowed the parody of you.


You are exactly the kind of administrator our children need.

Kudos to you. Bravo. and thanks,
Good Mother

To Maureen

March 3rd, 2012
11:18 am

Marueen you wrote “a teacher posting routine travel photos of herself with a glass a wine in a French cafe is very different than someone hijacking your photo and name, creating a fake online profile and filling it with crude and hurtful information.”

CRUDE and HURTFUL is not a standard when determining freedom of speechl. Parodies and criticisms MUST be hurtful to be effective. THAT IS THE POINT..

A nice, polite, gentile criticims is not effective.

You of all people should understand freedom of the press and freedom of speech because you, Maureen, often criticize law makers and administrators. If message that were hurtful were banned, you could not create Get Schooled.

Red White and Blue
Good Mother

To Hillbilly D

March 3rd, 2012
11:26 am

Hillbilly said
“Back in my day, there were paddles with holes drilled in them. That was pretty effective.”

…and back in my ancestor’s day we fed the Christians to the lions and didn’t allow girls to go to school…those were also efective….but

but we have evolved. Well, at least most of us have evolvedl.

Good luck with that,
Good mother

Maureen Downey

March 3rd, 2012
11:27 am

@Gm. The issue to which I was responding is whether the crude student parody on his principal equates to a teacher posting her own travel photos. It does not.
But neither is illegal. However, a school — under the current law — does have a right to discipline a student whose speech “disrupts classwork,” creates “substantial disorder” and collides with “the rights of others.”

Where is the story of the Gainesville Valedictorian?

March 3rd, 2012
11:41 am

Where is the story on Get Schooled of the Gainesville valedictorian? Why hasn’t Get Schooled covered it yet?

to catch us all up…it certainly is relevant…

A Gainesville high school valedictorian was told by his principal that he had to SHARE valedictorian honors with the runner up, another student who clearly did not have a high of GPA as the valedictorian.

Now, imagine how unfair that seems to the real valedictorian. The second place parents gracioulsy bowed out, recognizing the folly but the prinicpal holds steadfast..

Now, imagine the hurt this kid feels because he is the FIRST BLACK valedictorian in his school and ….you guessed it….

the runner up is white.

Where is that story on Get Schooled? Why isn’t it covered here? Dr. Proud Black Man must be out of his mind by now.

Here is the story…

Cody Stephens will become the first African-American valedictorian to graduate from Gainesville High School in Georgia. This decision comes after controversy over the school’s announcement that there would be ‘co-valedictorians’ of the 2012 graduating class–Stephens and his friend Charlie Bryant, who is white.

The Bryant and Stephens families have reportedly settled the issue fairly quickly and amicably, Bryant’s mother saying in a statement released today, “Cody and Charlie, as students and friends, can deservedly share the honor at school, and we as a community, can collectively lift up Cody’s accomplishments as a unifying element to be proudly witnessed on graduation day.” 11alive reports on this story:

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (WXIA) — 11Alive News has learned the co-valedictorian flap in Gainesville is officially over. The second student, Charlie Bryant, has withdrawn from the controversy.

This means Gainesville High School senior Cody Stephens will be the only valedictorian this school year. He becomes the first African American to achieve the honor at the school.

Bryant, who is white, had not been identified by name prior to this point, but was listed by name in a release from his family Monday afternoon.

The academic achievements of Cody Stephens and Charlie Bryant stand on their own merits and are to be celebrated, not tarnished by controversy

Click here to read the rest of this story.

Good Mother

Maureen's COmment

March 3rd, 2012
11:44 am

Maureen, you wrote “The issue to which I was responding is whether the crude student parody on his principal equates to a teacher posting her own travel photos”

Yes, it equates. It is ALL freedom of speech.

You also write “However, a school — under the current law — does have a right to discipline a student whose speech “disrupts classwork,” creates “substantial disorder” and collides with “the rights of others.”

UNDER CURRENT LAW is the key phrase here.

Current laws are often illegal ones. Laws get overturned by the courts because they are illegal. I am sure you are aware of this.

Good Mother

Maureen Downey

March 3rd, 2012
11:47 am

@GM, Actually, I have been looking into that story. I have exchanged emails with the school chief and hope to talk to her more this week.
One issue in this story is that calculating GPA is a lot more complicated now with dual enrollment, virtual classes and AP classes. Not all students end up with the same number of credits. It was a lot easier when everyone took the same college track and had the same number of courses.


March 3rd, 2012
11:58 am

@Frankie and Good Mother – I thoroughly agree with your comments!
@Atlanta Mom – I’m not condoning what the student did. I am making the point that the school should not expect nor be allowed to control all actions, including those actions out of school, of its students. The school is NOT the parent!
And if there is any legal complaint made, it should be by the individual (the principal), not the school (the government). And the student’s parents should follow up as they feel appropriate.

I still believe that this is a freedom of speech issue. This was not a school publication such as Dr. Henson referred to. Yes, there may be consequences of speech but our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, not freedom from being offended.


March 3rd, 2012
12:03 pm

@Good Mother regarding the Gainesville Valedictorian kerfluffle:
It may not be that Cody Stephens was the “real valedictorian”. We do not know because the Stephens family will not allow his grades/GPA to be revealed to the public.
The other family bowed out to diffuse the conflict stirred up by Ms. Stephens.


March 3rd, 2012
12:07 pm

oops! Typo – should read “kerfuffle”


March 3rd, 2012
12:39 pm

If the actions took place outside of school then the victims or parents of the victims should have gone to law enforcement. If it happened during school hours then the school should be involved. This includes improper use of a computer, slander, libel, or any other disruption of the school process. It is not freedom of speech when the actions on school property, during the school day, interfere with the rights of others. We have to get society to move away from the idea that the schools are responsible for everything. I am glad some of the previous posters have mentioned the parents. When discussing students talking about the parents should always be included.

To Soccermom

March 3rd, 2012
12:39 pm

You wrote “The other family bowed out to diffuse the conflict stirred up by Ms. Stephens.”

I am going to split hairs with you. Ms. Stephens did not creaete the controversy and I think it is wrong for anyone to blame her for the “kerfluffle.”
The school created the rules for determining teh valedictorian. They need to be clear and they need to be publicized often. So, if there are two close candidates as in this case, there will be a clear winner.

I am disappointed that Maureen’s research revealed that determining the winner is “complicated.” Complicagted means that the rules for determining the winner are unclear or hard or difficult to determine. The rules for determinng the winner need to be taught and communicate clearly and in writing and POSTed to the school’s web site for all to see so that anyone can determine the outcome. Assigning points to AP classes and some other things do NOT make this a difficult decision. What makes it difficult is if the rules are vague or definitions are vague.

Communication is the issue here. Communication of the policy is the responsibility of the school.

CLEARLY the mother is not at fault her. She didn’t create the policy. She didn’t communicate the policy. THE school did.

…and when her son is told he has to share the honors with someone who has a lower GPA…I understand how she would be angry.

What might be the case here (maybe I’m just guessing) is that one student had a higher GPA but did not take courses that were AP. The other student may have a lower GPA but may have taken more difficult course work. That is likely the reason Maureen hasn’t posted this topic yet. She is still fact gathering….but…

there are real consequences and real rewards for being a valedictorian. We need to make sure the schools get it right BEFORE waaaaay BEFORE graudation.

THE SCHOOL created this controversy. THEY are at fault. The parents and the students are the victims here and indirectly, the community, who likely got a black eye for being racist.

This situatin is an EPIC FAILURE because this situation could have been completely avoided by clearly communicating the policy for determining valedictorian.

Good Mother

Hugh Beaumont

March 3rd, 2012
12:58 pm

Good Mother, you will always refer to race, it is your Achilles heel, it will prevent you from ever loving life. You do not know facts, and your hate would probably block you mind enough to listen to them if presented. Schools have multiple valedictorians all the time, with all the different types of classes, it is difficult to always pick only one over another when you have multiple extraordinary students. Your hatred and insecurities will always make you feel inferior. Instead of vilifying the Gainesville school board, you should be asking them what they are doing to educate those kids so well so and look for a positive take away. But no, you default to your basest hate filled insecurities refuse to grow and realize the racism of the 1960 is over. Gainesville never said they did anything due to the color of the students skin, and it has been reviewed extensively I am sure. Fact is, if everyone in the Gainesvills school are racist, a teacher along the way could have easily unfairly given him a lower grade to prevent this. But the fact that he was able to make the achievement he had just shows who fair and good willed the school system is.


Hugh Beaumont

March 3rd, 2012
1:05 pm

You see, the link I provide above showed a school with 6 Valedictorians. It was a school that went from un-ranked, to a top school in the country. Multiple valedictorians is the sign of an excellent school system. With duel enrollment, AP classes, Virtual classes, it is impossible to measure one achievement over another. Instead of vilifying the Gainesville school board, they should praise them.

Funny, when black underachieve in education, it is all about the bad schools, but when you have a case like this, you do not credit the school, you just talk about the smart student.

Personally, my hat is off to this young man.

Constitution Class

March 3rd, 2012
3:04 pm

Seems like some readers here need to bone up on what the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Supreme Court consider protected and unprotected speech. Not all speech is protected by the 1st amendment – slander, libel, “fighting words,” treason, and obscenity immediately come to mind. The Supreme Court has also ruled that speech could be limited in a school setting – since it’s current law; it’s legal. You don’t need to like it, but it is how it is.

That being said, our Founding Fathers were somewhat genius in that they wrote a document that was broad and flexible. Even though they likely couldn’t foresee a communication mode such as the internet, the document is flexible enough to set standard through precedent. Each one of these cases can now be used to set precedent – and each case stands on its own.

This will continue to happen and the points of law will be refined with each case…and then something new will come along to through it up all in a loop again. Brave new world, indeed.

V for Vendetta

March 3rd, 2012
3:27 pm

GM would be the first to condemn the school if a student went home and killed himself/herself because of something another student posted about them online.

However, if the school attempts to hold a student accountable for his or her actions, something the parents are OBVIOUSLY NOT doing, then the school is encroaching upon that student’s free speech rights.


If I walk up to someone and tell them that I am going to kill them, that is not protected speech.

If I make false claims and comments against someone that could damage his or her reputation (and assuming he or she is not a public figure), that is also not protected speech.

Tell me something, GM. Do you EVER hold students responsible for their actions? Or do you prefer pointing the finger at everyone else? My what a disgusting world we are currently living in. It seems that attitudes like yours are the norm: students are not to be held responsible for anything. Neither are parents, apparently. Everything falls to someone else, and every problem is someone else’s to deal with. Does that about sum it up? This is exactly the type of “it takes a village” BS that has gotten our society into its current state. It doesn’t take a village.

It takes ME. I’m the parent. If my kid messes up, he or she faces the consequences–end of story. Like ‘em or not.

Ole Guy

March 3rd, 2012
3:55 pm

Look…right wrong or indifferent, this crap 1. has always happened, 2. will always happen, and 3. short of triming a little fat off the First, there ain’t a gd thing we can do about it…EXCEPT: grow a pair. Insults and bullying are, unfortunately, a way of life for a Country which has become too damn fat n’ sassy enjoying…compared to many other countries on this blue bb…a pretty good standard of living. This sort of crap only happens when people are bored with themselves…do you honestly believe citizens, within a country not as fortunate the Red White and Blue, have the time or inclination to waste on this _ hit?

Many years ago, my wife and I were having breakfast at a local restaurant following an evening at her class reunion. Recognizing one of the workers as a former classmate who had not been in attendance at the previous evening’s festivities, she recalled this particular gent as having “accelled”, some 20 years ago, in the “art” of bullying, etc. Quite obviously, this particular individual had failed to “make it”, in terms of personal/career growth, and simply did not wish to “advertise” this sad fact to his former classmates.

Lesson: Those who engage in bullying and insults are LOSERS.

To Hugh Beaumont

March 3rd, 2012
8:57 pm

Hugh, There is only one valedictorian. That’s the definition of valedictorian. The best. The issue is defining what “best” means and communicating it.
This controversy could have been completely avoided if the definition of valedictorian was very clear and clearly communicated.

The fact that a principal would take the top honors away from a black student and make him share it with a white student…and expect everyone to be happy with that decision….is laughable.

And ask any ten black people if racism is over…and see what they say.


Contrast and Compare Court Decisions

March 3rd, 2012
9:03 pm

Maureen’s blog containes several references to court cases involving online privacy and bullying. The commonalities and differences are clear:

When a student is bullying or cyberbullying another STUDENT the court does not defend the speech as first amendment protection.

When a student is bullying or cyberbullying or skewering a TEACHER the court does defen the speeck as protected.

The courts realize what many teachers don’t. Kids will lash out against their teachers in immature ways like we did as kids “On top of old smokey all covered with cheese, I shot my poor teacher when somebody sneezed. I went to her funeral I went to her grave. Instead of flowers I threw hand grenades.” That little diddly is more than 45 years old. No kid ever got sued because they sang that little song.

Teachers, as adults, need to realize that children are immature little beings. Their frontal cortex, which controls impulses, is not fully formed until their twenties. Teachers are expected to behave as the adults they are. Children are not.

Many teachers are already adults and behave as adults. Those too immature to understand the nature of children don’t need to be teachers. Teachers will be skewered by children and criticized by children in immature ways…and teachers, as adults, should handle it maturely as an adult….and ignore it.


Archie@Arkham Asylum

March 3rd, 2012
9:41 pm

@Ole Guy: ” Lesson: Those who engage in bullying and insults are LOSERS.” Yep! Besides agreeing with you, I dare to add that you never see karma (a.k.a. fate) that great equalizer but she (yes, she!) certainly does come up with some interesting ways to ensure that everyone gets their fair share of what’s coming to them!

Hugh Beaumont

March 4th, 2012
2:13 pm

There is nothing about a valedictorian that says it has to be one person. And you are right, to “celebrate” anything only due to the race involved ( A First black president for instance) is racism. To be truly free and equal means race means nothing. But apparently there is about 10% of the population is not quite ready for that day. And as I say, if it was a system wide conspiracy to deny this child recognition, all a teacher had to do is give him a B when ever the course work was subjective. Your argument has not facts, or very little logic, except for your own racial insecurities.

To V for Vendetta

March 4th, 2012
3:01 pm

This is GM. You either haven’t read my post or you want to miscommunicate what I said. Reread my post. The courts, I said, do not protect students bullying other students as free speech. I agree with that court decision.

I also said that when students bully, cyberbully or skewer teachers, the courts have upheld that as free speech and I agree with that too. Kids will lash out at teacehers in immature ways. Teachers are adults and should have the necessary coping skills to deal with it — just ignore it.

Nowhere did I ever even talk about a student threatening to kill someone, anyone. I think almost all threats of a violent nature need to be taken seriously….and recognize a serious threat.

So a school kid singing “On top of old smokey all covered with cheese….” is not a threat.

Adults, especially teachers need to understand that children are necessarily immature and make rash decisions without the thought of consequences. Their brains are literally still not formed, particularly the frontal cortex that controls behavior.

Teachers and all adults are expected to behave rationally and reasonably. We are expected to act with dignity and display calm, rational thinking under pressure. That;s why we hire adults to babysit our children when we as parents cannot be with them. Even when children “know the rules” they will misbehave. That in essence, is a fundamental part of being a minor.

When you understand these simple concepts you will agree with my post. If you want to just skewer me anyway…well, go right ahead. We will all see who is the adult here.