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Robert Winner


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Should students be punished by their schools for comments made on social medial from their homes.

In the news are students being expelled for comments made from home regarding their schools, administrators, or teachers. Should this be a matter for courts action ... no action ... or is the school discipline justified.

Remember the comments are not made on school equipment or while the student is under school control / school hours / school trips / etc ...


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    May 7 2012: Just for the record I am a highschool teacher. Mostly we stay out of what happens on facebook but if a student is involved in a situation that has already had impact within the school we are already involved. Also the majority of students name thier school on their profile. I'm sure if you identified yourself as working for a well known fast food outlet and then proceeded to be racist or anti-semitic on your facebook page there would be repercussions. We also suspend students if they are involved in fights or bullying outside the school, if they are wearing their uniform. By wearing the uniform they are involving the school. With regard to comments about staff, I think the school taking action is preferable for the student if the alternative is a libel conviction and the awarding of damages by a court.
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      May 7 2012: Unless you are talking about a private school, there is no substance to the analogy.
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        May 7 2012: Are you saying that a publicly funded school isn't protected by the same laws a privately funded school is? Why should a publicly funded entity be denied the right to protect its reputation?
        • May 7 2012: I think the point Shallow is making is that students don't choose the school they go to unless it's private. They do however choose the job they work at. A school is more than welcome to protect it's reputation, but it shouldn't be able to oppress someone's first amendment rights in the process.
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        May 7 2012: It is a valid point that you don't get to chose the public school you go to but in the same way in Australia the public school doesn't get to chose its students either. We are bound by law to provide education up to the age of 17. You can't get expelled unless legal action outside the school prohibits your attendance and even then an alternative placement must be provided at a nearby school.
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          May 7 2012: Keith explained my point as well as I could have.

          I can't speak on the Australian system, but I can for what I have seen of education in Texas. Just as you say, the schools are bound by law to provide education, but the citizens are also bound by law to fund the school. By way of a third party (parents), the students are paying for a service, a forced payment for a service determined solely by one's address. They have every right to speak out on the service they receive.

          - If slander is the case then that is for the courts to decide, not the schools.
          - If bullying is the case then, while I can understand the school being concerned, the school still has no right to intervene.

          When I was in (public) school, all athletes had to sign a contract in order to play sports. Included was the prohibition of alcohol under all instances, even though it was perfectly legal for a teenager to drink a beer while in the presence of a parent. The athletic director saw fit to force a contract upon athletes which forbid behavior that was 1) legal and 2) taking place outside of school. That was my first experience with a school stepping outside its jurisdiction and unjustly restricting the behavior of students. Regulating what a student says outside of school grounds/hours is even worse.

          And we wonder why students have such a bitter attitude towards school...
    • May 7 2012: I don't think you understand the what freedom of speech means. I can be as anit-semetic as I want to be as long as I am not purporting violence against another group. I have the right in this country to have my opinion and express it and you do not have the right to stop anyone just because you are a High School administrator/teacher. Censorship in any form is bad for a republic based on freedoms of the people. Corporations do not have the right to tell you what to post on Facebook either and if they were to take action against you for it; you have the right to sue.
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        May 7 2012: Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws. The freedom is not absolute; the Supreme Court of the United States has recognized several categories of speech that are excluded from the freedom of speech, and it has recognized that governments may enact reasonable time, place, or manner restrictions on speech.

        Criticism of the government and advocacy of unpopular ideas that people may find distasteful or against public policy, such as racism, sexism, and other hate speech are almost always permitted. There are exceptions to these general protections, including the Miller test for obscenity, child pornography laws, speech that incites imminent lawless action, and regulation of commercial speech such as advertising. Within these limited areas, other limitations on free speech balance rights to free speech and other rights, such as rights for authors and inventors over their works and discoveries (copyright and patent), protection from imminent or potential violence against particular persons (restrictions on fighting words), or the use of untruths to harm others (slander). Distinctions are often made between speech and other acts which may have symbolic significance.

        Please note of the bit about slander. If a school has a choice between discipline within the school or taking legal action that leaves a child with a criminal conviction then I think a two day suspension is preferable.
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          May 7 2012: Peter I think you've expressed it perfectly. I don't think David understands what censorship means. I haven't seen anyone proposing school censorship. Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequence. Does an example help? If a student expresses personal racist views, perhaps a school may have nointerest at all. But what if a student states that the staff of a school are racist, or that the school is institutionally racist? Do people really think the school's first line of action is to go to the courts?
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          May 7 2012: "Please note of the bit about slander. If a school has a choice between discipline within the school or taking legal action that leaves a child with a criminal conviction then I think a two day suspension is preferable."

          The school should take the path that is offered to the school; otherwise, the school is making up rules as they go along. Is punishment for an act which has yet to be found unlawful by the courts offered to the schools? If so, please cite. If not, then you are talking about schools playing the role of judge, jury and executioner, with the self-granted power argued by way of "This punishment isn't as bad as the possible alternative."

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