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Cyberbullying versus free speech

By JamesRL ·

This is juts 30km north of me...

Long story short - students get upset at ban of cells/pagers/other devices in school and blame principal of school (school board policy BTW).

Kids go onto social networking site and make comments, turning into something pretty nasty (some of the comments suggest he should suck some part of the male anatomy). Kids get suspended, though their punishment is less than if they had said the same things about a fellow student(board cyberbullying policy).

The kids have been all over the news saying this isn't fair, that they have the right to free speech and since it wasn't posted from school grounds the school has no right to interfere.

To me this is the classic free speech/responsibility challenge. The students are wrong to think that something that they do outside of school, but that affects the atmosphere of the school, cannot be held against them. If I slander my employer from my home, they can fire me. The students somehow think that they have the right to say whatever they want without consequences.

Now some students may have been caught in a wide net because the school board doesn't understand the technology. The student council president was a member of the group(he was invited by others) but did not post anything at all, and was suspended with the rest.

Frankly I think these kids are the enemies of free speech and fair comment. If they had used the forum to debate the fairness of the cell phone ban, I'd be all for it(though I agree with the ban, I like open debate). But their personal abusive attacks cannot be let pass.


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Yep. Free speech vs. fist+nose

by stress junkie In reply to Cyberbullying versus free ...

Placing libel and slander outside of the scope of free speech is generally accepted.

The debatable issue here is whether the school had any jurisdiction to impose punishment. On the one hand I don't think that the school has jurisdiction but on the other hand no other authority would do anything if the issue was brought to them. So are we going to grant the school jurisdiction for convenience or practicality? Yes, I think so. We should understand the precedent that's being established though. We are saying that the civil authority that has jurisdiction would probably not respond so we find a more convenient and accommodating authority that does not have jurisdiction to punish the offenders.

Let me be clear about my own position. I am very happy that the school board took punitive action in this case.

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In the case of student versus student

by JamesRL In reply to Yep. Free speech vs. fist ...

They have in the past done automatic 20 day suspensions. What they are suggesting is what is going on in cyberspace is an extension of whats going on in school and vice versa. The bullying may start in school and continue in cyberspace.

Its a tricky issue. Libel and slander aren't always part of the bullying. The bullying may be something like " Debbie is ugly and stupid and has no friends" - that may be bullying but not libel/slanderous. But if you say it on school grounds you can and will be suspended (my kids are in this school board and I've read the rules).

The school is a catholic school and has a code of conduct for its students.


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I find it rather simple myself

by Neon Samurai In reply to In the case of student ve ...

The students proved that they could not responsibly carry mobile phones too and from class so mobiles phones where banned.

They responded by behaving in a way that no parent or professional setting would tolorate (or hopefully wouldn't anyhow).

They then go to the media with an outcry because they are held accountable for there actions.

They seem to think that freedom of speech somehow outweighs the other person's freedom from hurrassment.

Now, the part that puts a grin on my face; it's out there. They will push the issue, get publicity and generally over-dramatise the situation. They can't take it back. They can't delete it. And, they are drawing attention too it so the news and there names attached to it become publicised on other websites. I think they should be held accountable and I expect they won't remember the stupid decision fondly when it starts effecting there futures. Students who have done the same are already having stupid highschool decisions haunt them in future job and school applications.

As for the school. I think they need to based punishments on factual evidence of who was involved not just the linked list of names for the overall groups. Unfortunately, school is a political organization focused on manufacturing not a place of education. The parents will push from one side and the school board may cave. The board will push from the other side and over-react with too large a net and too heavy a hammer.

No one is going to truly win this one.

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"stupid highschool decisions haunt them in future "

by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to I find it rather simple m ...

Well worn path, that.

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isn't it though.. self documented now though

by Neon Samurai In reply to "stupid highschool decisi ...

hehe.. who doesn't have a few stupid highschool decisions they'd like a chance to rethink. At least in our, or my, day we didn't document them ourselves on a permanent medium.

A while back there was discussion around if there should be a "children's internet" that could expunge kid's history when they hit adult age. The idea is that kids get a sandbox to be stupid in but don't end up with the documented history. The theory is also that it could also keep adults off the children's internet hopefully limiting predatory attacks. I don't know about the second as someone will figure out how to get access but I think th first intention is worth considering.

We where all stupid highschool kids once but self-documenting that in a perminent medium is the new twist.

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Interesting notion

by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to isn't it though.. self do ...

"children's Internet".

Boy. I think that would be a bad idea. We have already invented myriad ways to avoid holding our children - and ourselves - accountable.

For those of us who were near complete idiots in our teen years, we couldn't have gotten away with it if we hadn't been enabled. That same particular bunch of us - if we wake up - will pay for that level of idiocy until we die. A level of accountability that is near obscene for the simple fact that accountability in the moment would have taught us.
(Maybe beyond, but no one knows about that.)


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true, it was an interesting idea but not implementable

by Neon Samurai In reply to Interesting notion

I think that's why it never went further than inital discussion. I'd like to see some way someone's childhood idiocy online could be expunged at the same time as other children's juvi records (age 19 here I believe) but implementation is the real challenge and how long will it take kids to figure out how to break out into the grown'ups networks?

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Free Speech

by Inkling In reply to Cyberbullying versus free ...

If you support free speech that means you have to suffer the things you do not like/want to hear along with the things you do like/want to hear. I served in the military and consider myself to be very patriotic, but I am against the banning of flag burning, etc, even though I find it distasteful.

I don't think the school has any right to punish these students regardless of how vulgar the comments are. If school resources were not used, or if this was not done on school time then tough.

If threats were made that is a different story, but vulgarities are not in and of themselves threatening. I personally find it absurd that anyone gets offended by "curse words" anyway. What is the difference between me saying the "f-word" or saying "CRAP"? The meaning is the same when used in the right context aren't they? And is it not the meaning of the word that is offensive?

I would expect that the principal would alert the parents of these children to what their kids were doing, but that is about the extent of their legal recourse in my opinion.

I don't think kids should be using any of the banned devices in school, but unless the school offers telephones for their children to call home if they need to (after sports, etc. - I personally had to use a pay phone when I was in High School) then I don't think cell phones should be banned altogether.

The day a school tries to parent my child will be the day my child starts home schooling.

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But, too many expect the school to act as in loco parentis.

by deepsand In reply to Free Speech

In fact, parents have not only demanded such, but sued schools for failing to so act! Given the choice between pissing off the students vs the parents, the choice for the schools is clearly obvious.

And, for those too young to have experienced it, most colleges had official in loco parentis policies until the end of the '60s and early '70s.

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Go back and learn what free speech is covered

by jdclyde In reply to Free Speech

Sorry, but individuals do NOT have a free right to say anything they want.

Freedom of speech is to keep unpopular political speech from being silenced.

This is not free speech that is protected.

People give up certain rights in a civilized society, and crude/abusive expression such as in this case is one such thing that is given up in CIVILIZED nations.

You CAN say it, but you are not free from retribution, such as getting fired from your job or suspended from school.

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