Posts Tagged ‘Kara Kowalski’

Huge Setback for the Fight Against Cyberbullying

January 19, 2012

Today is a disappointing day for all Americans (and the vast majority don’t know it). The Supreme Court’s decision not to overturn a previous decision which found in favour of students who harassed and slandered two Principals on the grounds that the school did not have the authority to punish them for deeds committed outside of the school gates.

The court let stand the suspension of a West Virginia high school’s “Queen of Charm,” who created a Web page that suggested another student had a sexually transmitted disease, and invited classmates to comment.

The court also left alone rulings that said schools could not discipline two Pennsylvania students for MySpace parodies of their principals that the students created at home. An appeals court, following 40-year-old case law on student speech, said the posts did not create substantial disruptions at school.

Lawyers on both sides were disappointed that it will be at least another year before the high court wades into the issue. Federal judges have issued a broad range of opinions on the subject.

“We’ve missed an opportunity to really clarify for school districts what their responsibility and authority is,” said Francisco Negron, general counsel of the National School Boards Association. “This is one of those cases where the law is simply lagging behind the times.”

This is a bitter blow for American society. Cyber bullying is a significant problem. It is my opinion that schools should most certainly get involved when its students are bullying each other (irrespective of where they are when they do it). By working with the parents, schools can play a vital role in deterring  bullies from victimising others online.

I am very saddened to read that the Supreme Court is of the opinion that when a child call their Principals names like a “big fag”, “whore”, “hairy sex addict” and “pervert”,  their posts do “not create substantial disruptions at school.” Really? I would have thought it would certainly undermine the authority of the Principal. And should she/he is unable to take any action, it sets an awful message that you can get away with saying anything online.

Is this progress? I think not!

Students Using the First Amendment to Slander Their Principals

January 15, 2012

I am a big believer in free speech. I consider myself very lucky to be in a country where my thoughts and feelings can be expressed freely without recriminations. But like all other laws and freedoms there are boundaries. I might have free speech, but I am also restricted by sensible limitations to what I can say.

When students use social media to call their Principals names like a “big fag”, “whore”, “hairy sex addict” and “pervert”, and the consequence for their actions is nothing more than a suspension, I think they should count themselves very lucky. To then sue on the grounds of freedom of speech and win says a lot about the judicial system and the difficulties educators face in earning basic respect.

A middle school principal in northeastern Pennsylvania was shocked to see his photo online along with a description of him as a “hairy sex addict” and a “pervert” who liked “hitting on students” in his office.

A high school principal north of Pittsburgh saw a MySpace profile of himself that called him a “big fag,” a “whore” and a drug user. And in West Virginia, a school principal found out that a girl had created an online site to maliciously mock another girl as a “slut” with herpes.

All three students were suspended from school and filed suits against the principal and the school districts. They argued the 1st Amendment protected them from being punished for postings from their home computers. And in the two Pennsylvania cases, they won.

Whilst these awful slurs may technically be classified as “free speech”, verbal bullying of any kind can also be defended under the guise of free speech. Is this what we want? People supported by the courts to demoralise, slur and denigrate others? How are principals supposed to tackle bullying when they can’t even deal with bullies who are attacking them?

The exploitation of free speech will see bullying, especially cyber bullying, continue to gain momentum. These students should never have been suspended. They should have been expelled!


%d bloggers like this: