By John S. Wilson, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: John S. Wilson is a contributing writer for The Loop 21, Mediaite and Black Enterprise. He frequently writes about health and education policies and politics. You may reach him on Twitter: @johnwilson.
(CNN) - Last month, a few high school students sent out racist tweets about Washington Capitals player Joel Ward after he scored a winning goal against the Boston Bruins in overtime. Responding later in an interview, Ward, who is black, said, “People are going to say what they want to say," and he shrugged off those comments. But the students' high schools sure didn't.
Almost immediately after reports of the tweets, the schools began looking into ways of punishing the students for their actions outside the classroom. The schools absolutely should express their discontent with the offensive tweets. But should they punish the students? Do they even have the ability to do so? Not likely.
One official, Jonathan Pope of the Gloucester School Committee in Massachusetts, admitted as much in an interview with MSBNC.com: "We don't know whether we actually have any legal standing to implement any kinds of penalties for that kind of behavior done outside school on a private communication system."
Pope and other school officials may want to look toward the Supreme Court on this point. The 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines ruling held that students' speech was subject to punishment if it "materially and substantially" affected an institution's educational mission. These few tweets couldn't possibly pass that bar and thus qualify for the schools' disciplinary action.
Yet Richard Safier, Gloucester superintendent of schools, did just that and handed down suspensions from extracurricular activities and sports programs, saying, "Such misconduct contradicts the values and standards of Gloucester High School and the Gloucester Public Schools as a whole," according to The Gloucester Daily Times.
Random racist tweets from a few students would no more blight that school district than a commuter flipping the bird in the midst of road rage would indict a community of drivers.
Words indeed do matter. But censorship matters even more. When public schools begin to punish children for what they say or don't say - absent doing so on school property or with the school's equipment or express sponsorship - we're no longer on a slippery slope, we've already fallen and may not be able to get up.
This has been played out numerous times in the media over the past few months. Words that have offended many have come from the mouths of Rush Limbaugh and Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen as well as tweets from CNN contributor Roland Martin. Boycotts have ensued, and suspensions and apologies have flowed. The difference is not only that these men are adults, but as public figures they are accountable to their audiences and their employers. In those cases freedom of speech didn't apply because government censorship or punishment was never involved. They were private actors suffering the consequences of the free market - subject to their employers and the whims of their audiences. But this is different. Public schools have boundaries and must stay within them.
Students who don't break laws or their schools' rules are accountable to their parents, not an audience or the state. The public shame of this incident should be enough. Not everything that's offensive is punishable.
And, worse, by taking this action the Gloucester school district is opening itself up to legal liability if students decide to sue and protect their free speech rights. It's ironic that the school may be the party in need of a teachable moment.
The opinion expressed in this commentary is solely that of John S. Wilson.
Giving kids the right to free speech is like handing them a loaded gun and telling them to play with it. Just as with voting, they should be limited in the scope of that right until they reach majority age. Till then, they should be ultimately subject to their parents and/or guardians and learn how to use it correctly. But it'll never happen because most parents nowadays couldn't care less about their kids, and this country is on the downward slide into oblivion.
If it had no connection to the schools in the reporting then no, they cant do anything. However if everyone that was reporting on this were saying 'some high school students from so and so school sent the comments' then maybe they have a case.
Reporting has nothing to do with it. If they did it on school grounds, or with school property, sure.
This is a very well written piece and very true. Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our freedoms. You have to take the good with the bad, warts and all. Censorship never fixed anything, only education can.
Sure kids can be racist in school or outside of school ,but then you find the most influential students both inside and outside and you see to it that these racist students become non people no violence just don't answer questions(now i am only talking about students teachers must answer questions) walk around them,look through them till they understand why our ancestors started tribes. this is harsh but it has worked for two centuries of Amish.Why not for us.
A lot of you don't seem to understand free speech - it only applies to legal situations such as whether they could get arrested. However, an employer can fire you for what you say, an any voluntary membership organizations can bar you, and a business can bar you, etc. A private school certainly has the right to punish kids for things they do outside of school, and public schools can do it too provided it reflects on the school or affects things at the school - this is established by the Supreme Court. It could be argued that this will affect the school, and possibly the educational environment - I'll leave that to the lawyers to figure out. The school could easily argue they have the right to exclude the kids from voluntary activities like sports teams and extracurricular activities - there is no law that they have to let any kid they don't like in.
Anyway, free speech only means you can't be arrested, but does not mean that other people or society generally can't punish you, ostracize you, fire you or choose to kick you out or limit your activities.
I have to agree there, far too many people think that freedom of speech also means freedom from a reaction to the speech.
Congratulations Julian! I think that you have just provided the most butchered and erroneous description of "free speech" ever posted on the web. You really think that "free speech only means you can't be arrested, but does not mean that other people or society generally can't punish you, ostracize you, fire you or choose to kick you out or limit your activities"????? really?
There isn't enough room in this post to explain how stupid and far off from the 1st Amendment that statement is. The Bill of Rights provides protections from a lot more than "being arrested." Good lord, some of you internet lawyers are just too funny.
Racism is not acceptable at anytime. We all all humans. There is only one race – the human race. Skin colour is just a bi-product of evolution. We need to stop dividing ourselves by colour and religion. We need to stop using words like "aliens" and "minorites"
If dropping N bombs anywhere gets you suspended, I suggest schools start suspending every single white kid between 10-14 yrs old with an Xbox live account. I've heard things on there that would make your skin crawl.
How do you know they're all white kids?
Ever listen to rap & hip-hop?
Kids should be raised like in the movie "Soldier".
The larger issue here is that there is still racism in our country, period. THAT'S what we need to be focusing on. It's disgusting to me that in 2012 America, a black person is subject to this kind of treatment. Unfortunately, Joel Ward is accustomed to it. That also speaks volumes to me.
Even if the superintendent overstepped his bounds, and I happen to think he did, the lesson here is clear – racist speech should not be tolerated by anyone, anywhere, any time. You may be free to express racist thoughts, but you're also free to face the consequences of that expression, whatever they may be.
Inferior is as inferior does. Proven every day by every race, some more than others.
Great article and I completely agree. It is scary to think that schools, government, employers have so much control over our being.
Free speech means you have the legal right to say what you want, as limited by the rights of others.
But it doesn't mean you get to say whatever you want. Speech has consequences. If someone engages in racist remarks then there ought to be societal, if not legal, consequences.
Like what? Who decides what is and what in not “racist”? your one of those libs who wants everything to “be fair” and put so many rules in place about what you can and cannot say, eat, dress……forget you….if you don’t like it…walk away. Control freak………..
No. That is where you wrong. That is why hate groups can have their meetings. They exercise their right to say what they want, as long as there is no invitation for violence.
Sure, they can meet with like-minded people, but people that think differently are also free to kick them out. You can fire someone who says something you don't like, you can refuse to business with them, you can deny them membership in your club, etc. If a bunch of racists want to meet, they are legally allowed, but others are also allowed to bar them from their groups and dealings as well. The school can't bar them from public education (which is non voluntary) but certainly they have the right from barring them from sports and extracurricular activities.
I agree. Speech does have consequences. Inciting a riot ,yelling "Fire" in a crowded theatre. And you will held accountable.
Well, it is not on the school grounds. So I don't believe school should punish anyone. Also, one must ask why school reacts that way. The answer is very clear, they are afraid for their reputation, and NOT because they are REALLY concerned. All of these students should sue the school for infringing on their First amendment rights!
This is easy. A public school can't punish these kids if the speech doesn't meet the Tinker v Des Moines threshold. If these kids went to a private school with a code of conduct, they could be kicked out or punished. Duh.
because a private school isn't an agent of the government, same as a private company.
When I used to box and would be fighting a black guy in the service I would whisper racist things and get them all mad……hey would start throwing haymakers and leave themselves wide open for a beatin…….it worked a large amount of the time….hahahahaha
I am looking for a point somewhere in there but i guess it would be that everyone you know is just tired of listening to this story so you decided to bore strangers with it now
because its funny
I always thought it strange that some school officials do everything they can to be involved in a kids discipline outside of the school, while others are so derelict in their duty that they suspend/expel kids at the first whiff of a problem.
i think pc peeps everywhere will back me up on this: its okay to be racist as long as you're black. if you're any other color (especially white), it is bad. right, pc'ers?
Incorrect...I'm a black man, and I don't condone racist speech from black people – just as I don't condone it from white people...
Stupid is as Stupid does. These kkkids should have their pictures plastered all over everywhere so that people can see them for who and what they really are. With that as the punishment, I wonder how many of them would repent of their kkkiddy ways?
and i guess it will be okay with you if the pics of all the black kids commiting crimes every single day in my town (dc) have their pics posted online? it's certainly fine with me...sounds like you're cool with it too. just checkin.
Why don't you watch comedy on BET. All they talk about is trashing white folk. So don't hate, what comes around...
Whatever happened to, "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." ? All the big government thought/speech police here need to go live in Europe where they don't have a First Amendment and certain speech is illegal. This is America. I'll take freedom at the expense of being offended from time to time over the alternative, no question.
Honestly, does anyone really think this would have blighted the schools image in any way? The fact that it is brought to a national news outlet has done that much more readily. Add that with the blatant overreach of school authority to outright censorship and you have it. No one would of heard of it otherwise. And anyway, we have freedom of speech which protects even hate speech.
The other interesting aspect is the use of punishment to achieve an effect – in this case, having the students not tweet such things again. Punishing someone does not show them a better way of being in the world – and in may instances comes from the same way-of-thinking that the punishment is trying to change. In many ways, it causes the underlying problem to become hidden to avoid punishment, rather than real change. Even if the punishment was a valid use of the schools authority, the kids would not suddenly lose their racism; rather, they would only express it in other ways.
they were not on school property and it was done with thier own phones....school can't (and shouldn't be able too) do anything except express thier thoughts about it. Never should there be limits on free speach unless it endanges lives......like yelling "fire" in a crowed movie....Free Speech is FREE SPEECH.....don't care if they used ni**er, does not matter.......
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't think ANYONE had a right to racist speech!
you are correct and we need to protect that right
Consider yourself corrected then, because you are absolutely 100% wrong. This is America. Long as you aren't directly threatening someone, libeling a private citizen, or causing imminent danger (fire in a crowded theater standard), you have the right to say it.
everyone has a right to feel and say what they please......that right we need to protect.
OK, you are wrong. The First Amendment grants everybody the right to free speech, even if that speech is racist.
Then you thought very very wrong. Only unpopular speech requires the protection that free speech affords.
You're wrong. As the author stated, not everything that is offensive is punishable
You may have thought that, but you're wrong. Everyone has a right to free speech even if it's racist. You can be stupid all you want as long as you don't infringe on the rights of others.
Consider your self corrected. You, and all US citizens have the right to racist speech. Racist action is another story though, perhaps you're meshing the two.
Actually, EVERYONE has the right to racist speech. There is a difference between what the government (in this case in the form of the school) can and should control and what may be socially acceptable. It is not the government's job to protect social norms.
Okay, ddg01183, we'll correct you. You're wrong.
That doesn't mean that racist speech is good or appropriate. It's just free speech, which they have the right to exercise. However, let's hope that those who disagree with them will then use THEIR right to call them racist idiots.
Negative responses from peers will do a lot more to make these kids rethink their actions than a school punishment would. School punishment, given the questionable jurisdiction, will just make them feel like unfairly treated victims. Having the other kids at school let them know that they're jerks – THAT will make an impact. Racism may be protected free speech, but it's not cool.
Consider yourself corrected.
You're wrong. everyone has the right to say stupid things.
You stand corrected...sorry, you're wrong. People should and do have the right to be idiots. Like grandpa said, "you can't fix stupid".
ddg01183: You are incredibly wrong. The First Amendment generally protects hate speech, at least in the United States. See, e.g, Brandenberg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (Vacating conviction of KKK leader for violation of Ohio's criminal syndicalism statute after Klan leader spoke of taking "revengeance [sic] against 'n****s' [and] 'Jews'.")
The situation is different in many other countries, e.g., Germany, given their unique experiences with genocide.
Perhaps the school can use this as a teachable moment. Both racism and the 1st amendment should be discussed. The students need to overcome racism and the school administrators need to be reminded of the 1st amendment to the Bill of Rights.
Is it a crime to be racist? No, it is not, despite the political correctness smothering all diverse opinion in this country, it is still perfectly legal to hate another person because of their race. Too bad, but true. ANd I hope it stays that way.
How and why were these kids being spied upon and why is there so little concern over their privacy?
They posted the comments onTwitter, not exactly "private" thoughts, no need to spy
No one has to spy on them its not like the internet is private
RACISM should be barred....nasty, dirty speech should be barred......when I was a young kid back in the 1940's if you used nasty and dirty and foul language and the "F" word bigtime and you were caught doing so in public....(1 you were FINED.....(2..you could be tried and go to jail for 30 days! Generations today could NOT live under the laws of the 1940's.....they would not know how to behave! We have some very nasty generations today.
Yes, let's make certain kinds of speech illegal. ... and thoughts too. and beliefs also.
not like your generation... where it was okay to deny a person food or medical care based on skin color... if only we had your morals, maybe therte would be no swearing!
I think there's some kids on your lawn.
Go live in Europe if you want to police speech you big government Statist.
wow sounds like you grew up in a terrible place that never read the first amendment.
So now we have a legal right to control the expression of free speech, thought and personal ideals unless it conforms to what you think it should be? If you don't put your hands on me or mine you can say what you want.
FREE speech is fine if you use it PROPERLY! FREE speech does not give you a passport to be a piece of garbage with a garbage mouth! FREE speech merely means you have the right to an opinion and you have the right to PEACEFUL protest! It does NOT give you the right to be a SLUG!
If you believe you have the right to ANY KIND of free speech you wish and if you have the right to use PROFANITY about me or mine....then I have the RIGHT to smack you right in the kisser, Jack!
Speech is not action. Hitting someone is action.
really not surprising you're from texas... try that out sometime and see how fast you end up in jail for assault, idiot.
Try assaulting someone and using "offensive speech" as a defence. See how far that goes.
You are WRONG! Free speech to a DEGREE, YES! No "dirty dozens"....no profanity and NO RACISM! If you don't like that, sir....move your can back to Africa!
That post is ironic.
Actually, i think it is you, sir who does not belong in this country. Or have you forgotten that you're an immigrant too? if free speech is too offensive for your weak sensibilities, maybe you should go back to wherever your ancestors hailed from.
Your comments sir, are foolish.
Degrees of free speech? You, my friend don't understand the 1st ammendment. Freedom of Speech is Freedom of Speech. This includes vulgar language, racist rants etc. I don't have to like it, but they can tweet whatever they like.
Actually no. Free Speech does NOT mean you can say anything you want. First of all if your speech infringes on any other rights it isn't allowed. For example, you will face legal problems if you do any of the following: threaten, harass, incite to riot, lie contractually, lie under oath, plan a criminal act, offer illegal services or to obtain illegal services, endanger someone (e.g. yell "fire" in a crowded theater), slander, etc.
Secondly, Free Speech only means you won't face arrest, but it doesn't mean that others can't punish you. You can be fired for what you say, a person can refuse to business with you, you can be refused memberships, etc.
So you can say anything you want, but it could still possible be illegal, and even if it isn't you can still face consequences from others.
I hope you are never in government of have any power over any other people. You don't get to tell me what I can and can not say. It's not your world. We have free speech, so you can say what you want, but so can I. And if I need to curse to get my point across I will. I don't use hate speech though, because I don't believe in it. But I guess you do from your comment.
LOL BEST POST OF ALL TIME.
More of the nanny state here. This school is over reaching its athority and mission. Once the student is off the property and not on a school function they have no athority.
I think the school enacted the punishemtns, knowing that the decision will be overturned on appeal, because the howl if they had done nothing would be worse.
And sometimes it is right to make a principled if ultimately pointless stand.
David, I agree 100%. The school had to make a stand even though it will probably not hold up. If they had remained silent it could have been taken as condoning the tweets. The principal has done his job, and now it is time to let the legal process do its' job.
The school is overreaching here. As a black man I feel bad that these kids would make htose kinds of posts but what they do once they leave school is outside of the scope of the education and should be kept that way. Does the school get to suspend a girl for getting pregnant or a boy for running into a neighbors car with his bike. This is on the parents and if they don't discipline the child than in htis situation it isn't up to the school.
No school has any right to tell a student what to do once the student is off the school grounds. Students have freedom of speech once they leave the school grounds. If I were one of these students, I would get me a fly by night Lawyer and sue the school, and anyone else trying to infringe on there rights and Freedom.
look anyone anywhere can be racist (esp temporarily in context); however, racism is a complete disservice to all people – it helps no human to be racist – there are much higher roads to take in dealing with each other than to turn to skin color for a reason to justify any kind of feeling or opinion or action
Actually, one has to choose to be offended. You can make any comment you want, but if I choose to ignore you, then I can not be offended. For one to actually offend me, and hurt my feelings, I have to know them, and value their opinion. Now, if that person is an idiot, then I am a lesser man for allowing myself to be controlled by a fool.
Schools need to make up their minds. They cannot pick and choose when social networking warrants enforcement. You cannot say you're going to discipline students who tweet racist comments while at the same time say you cannot do anything about students who bully other students via social network.
Racism is not okay anytime, anywhere. It is the lowest of collectivist thinking. It says that a genius is not a genius because he or she looks like someone you don't like, and that you are automatically a genius because you look like someone who is. The truth is, you're a m0r0n.
It is a persona, call......... some people are just racist........
No one has the right to insult another's intellectual abilities. The M word must be forbidden. You are suspended!!!
Even though I appear to be in the minority here I still believe the school acted appropriately by suspending these students from participating in extra-curricular activities, which are a privilege and not a right. That said, I just want to express how grateful I am to actually be part of an adult discussion online.
I spent some time over at FOX before they stopped allowing comments and I know what a deluge of vulgar, n-word laden rants this story would have generated there. CNN can be proud of its readers.
Should the school then dicipline all students who use the N-word? If that is the case most of the students who listen to rap will need to be suspended next.
What about when students post defamitory statments about people, or staff, what protections are there? If a student posts a "tweet" talking about how he wanted to hurt a teacher by posting "I wanna f*#k the B**#ch up and stab her in her...", and this is done while the kid is at lunch or in class, what is the remedy then?
Then they are subject to punishment by the school. Did you read the article? Your scenario is completely different than the one presented in the article.
Actually, they can be punished for that as it directly relates to the school. Additionally, they open themselves up to Assault charges (don't ask me how, I don't understand how a lot of things get labeled "asault" by the police).
That is a threat and should be handled by law enforcement.
I agree with the author. I make sure to tell my kids it's perfectly fine to be smart and stay clear of any black people after school.
You sir are an imbecile.
Yes, these kids need to be disciplined, and since they likely learned that behavior from their parents, it is unlikely they will get the discipline they need. However, these offenses did not take place at school, and the school has no jurisdiction.
Free speech & social ignorance are separate issues. CAN you say something vs. SHOULD you say something?
It is so easy to be respectful, use common sense, and try to understand others, but so many choose to be disrespectful and stupid, the easy way out
Remember this, It is 100% OK to make racist comments at inner city schools, where black kids run amok and are allowed to be racists. No one cares about that, but soon as a couple of white kids make a comment outside of school it is national news.
Wow Flexx. I always find it amusing when people say things like that. It must be the first rule in the racist handbook to try to say the oppressed is the oppressor.
It reminds me of high school when a bully would beat up a kid and take his lunch money and then say it was the victum's fault.
I suppose when the black men were being chased by men in white hoods they were oppressing them by running too fast.
I suppose all those black people being chased down by men in white hoods were racist as well.
Um, what flaxx said is the truth! It's not making the oppressor out to be anything at all. There most certainly is a double standard in this country, why would you deny that?
Wow Flappy, I think you missed Flexx's point, he's not talking about being oppressed, he's talking about what he perceives as a double standard, and whether his statement is right or wrong does in no way make his statement racist.
Yes, this is only one confirmation of what I wrote about in my earlier posting to this article. There
are more out there. Look and see for yourself. It is sometimes subtle and you're not going to like
it if you're white and/or non-racist.
Because you great great parents started slavery.
Assuming your statement is true, it is still not the point of this story!
What is racist? If the kids were black would the same thing apply. I am White/American Indian and have been called lots of terms when walking by teenagers. Do we create a book of terms that mean one thing when one person uses it and something else when another person uses it. We could create a Federal Enforcement group like OSHA that would keep an updated listed and fines/punishments required. How Hispanics, Asians and other races.
Anyone has the right to be racist wherever they want whether you say it, act it or think it. The school has no right to try and punish the kids for what they do away from school. Even though if I were to do something on my own time that my employer decides they don't like, I'd be fired. That's part of the problem. My employer has no right to tell me what to do/not do on my own time. However if I agree to take their job I'm agreeing to their policies whether I agree with the policies or not. Children don't have a say-so in what school they go to, (unless it's private). So what, will we have a million different policies? Instead of trying to find ways to punish these kids, the schol should be TEACHING them to be better people. Every school should have a mandatory "life preparation" class. We all remember when we were kids. We heard about things but did not pay much attention because it's like, "whatever", really wasn't affecting you at the time. How many high schoolers really understand what to expect in the real world? It's not just about how you should treat other people, it's partly about how other people should treat you.
used to be a free country , unfortunately that is no longer true except on paper . these days everything is conditional and may have to be litigated if the government will allow even that . amerika is quickly going over to socialism , maybe even national socialism . if you are old enough or are a student of history you can remember that it almost took over the world in the 40's .
Take a stand or put up with it ?
You must be a surrender frog
If common courtesy and respect for your fellow human being means you are a socialist then sign me up. People like you give socialism a good name.
When I hear something that offends me I just consider the source and move on...
What kind of question is this? It is NEVER OK to be racist anywhere or at anytime. These kids are being raised by ignorant parents.
So you would invoke the thought police? scarry
I disagree with your base response. The parents are not "ignorant" unless you are talking about them not knowing that their children are saying racist things.
The question is; does the school (a part of the government) have the right to discipline students for what they write away from school? The answer is no. The school acts in Loco Parentis at school and during school field trips. These students were expressing free speech away from campus. Perhaps we have a teachable moment for both racism and the 1st amendment.
where in the article does it say or even hint that the parents of the children approve of, were ok with the racists tweets?
You are being hysterical.
We need to end free speech in this country. It is the direction we are going, might as well be on the winning side, because the people with their freedom this and freedom that are about to get steamrolled.
Who, then, gets to decide what is legal speech and what is not? This is how you get governments where you can't question the president or any of your leadership without going to jail. And don't delude yourself into thinking that it woudn't get to that point.
It's the First Amendement, because it's absolutely the most important. Without it, you don't have the United States.
This situation has nothing to do with Free Speech or even "legal "speech" - the kids aren't being arrested or in danger of such. However, there are many situations where organizations have the right to censor their membership, refuse membership, and punish membership based on what they say (even if outside the organization). For example, you employer is allowed to fire you for what you have said, a person can refuse to do business with you for what you say, a club can expel you for what you say, and so on. So this is not a free speech issue, but merely an issue of what kind of organizational/contractual power a school has. If it is a public school that the kids are required to attend then they probably can't be expelled or suspended for off-school activity (although Supreme Court says they can if it impinges on the school somehow, perhaps the school can make a case about reputation or disruption or something) but they certainly can choose to not include the kids on voluntary things like sports teams and extracurricular activities. And if it is private school they're allowed to tell people how to cut their hair so they would certainly have the right to punish the kids in whatever manner they chose. Anyway, none of this has anything to do with Free Speech or legal speech - there is no legal punishment in this story.
Are you mourning over the loss of freedom to oppress other people? Since when does "freedom" mean being able to take other people's freedom away with impunity. Do you see the problem with your logic now?
over my dead fermenting body.
School systems in general believe that the consti tution is null and void for their students both on and off campus. These same schools are required to teach the consti tution. That is the scary part.
It's also kinda scary that you have to separate that word because the profanity filter sees a boob in the middle of that word.
Reading some of these comments is really angering me. I'm not saying the racist remarks these kids made were protected speech or that they should suffer no consequences for their actions. The question is WHO is the one to punish them ? If the school punished every child for being stupid outside school, then no one would ever graduate. If the school REALLY wants to handle the issue of racism, then why not meet it head on ? Promote activities where kids learn from one another and even get their parents involved. Just punishing someone doesn't mean they are going to change, you have to encourage people to think.
When I was in 5th grade, the principle came to our class and asked for a list of all the kids who has a low gpa. Being one of those kids, I thought I was in trouble. I learned instead that some younger children from a special needs school were visiting and we were chosen to be their guardians while they played on our playground. Up to that point I had never been around anyone with autism or down syndrome and I had a very narrow view of them. When I spent time with my new friend, I realized just how much like myself these kids were. So they had something different about them, so what ? They still enjoyed the same games I did and loved the swings and slides like me. After that, I decided not to treat people with disabilities with disrespect again. That's the kind of thing schools need to focus on instead of just punishment.
I wonder how this would have played out differently if the students had been making gay-bashing comments?
Think of it this way – if you start policing THAT sort of hate speech, you'd end up having to tell students not to go to most churches.
That is a wonderful idea Ann.
Sports: Breakfast of loosers. (Unless they go to become professional players, which is also a waste.)
Only a loser can't spell loser....... You're a waste.
And "myto", it's Mytwo. Wow. And you dig on athletes when you have the IQ of a badger
Sports: Helping idiots graduate into the working world.
The kids actions – though repugnant – are not under the jurisdiction of the school authorities... period.
Good article, brave stance. Would be easier to jump in with the crowd and throw the students out with the bath water.
Sports: Promoting the development of future couch potatoes and loud obnoxious sports fans.
Schools have become paper printing machine and a wast of time. Sports should not be a part of higher education. It promotes a mob like invironment that has now moved into our society. I'm not suprised to hear about things like this. Sports promotes violance and bias.
"Schools have become paper printing machine and a wast of time. Sports should not be a part of higher education. It promotes a mob like invironment that has now moved into our society. I'm not suprised to hear about things like this. Sports promotes violance and bias."
myto, by reading that paragraph i can see that that you think schools are a wast(e) of time. maybe the time wouldn't have been wasted if you'd put forth a wee bit more effort.. .
Yes, it's protected free speech but no, it's not "okay."
An absurd abuse of power by the school officials. I understand making it clear that these student's statements are not supported by the school or any intelligent persons. But there is no basis for punishment whatsoever. Students give up SOME 1st amendment rights on school property and during school activities. Outside of school it should be hands off. Everyone should be free to spout their nonsense.
At what point do the racist words become intimidation and bullying behavior? In many states schools are legally required to report and act on bullying behavior even when it is online or off campus.
If these kids were not on school grounds at the time or on a school sponsored activity, then I don't understand how they could possibly have any justification to punish these children. It's an absolute overreach of authority.
What is interesting about things like Facebook and Twitter when it comes to free speech and statements is that it is much like a constant statement that is made every time someone reads or views it. It becomes a permanent statement, where as the author of this article compares it to someone "...flipping the bird in the midst of road rage...", this comparison is not appropriate because this is not something the students said to each other or over the phone, they posted it to a web page that is viewable by anyone at anytime which means that if someone reads/views it on school grounds the person who posted it has just made a statement during school hours on school grounds.
Nice try, but I don't think the law agrees with you.
You can take the racist words away from the students, but you can't take out the racist out of the students.
Hey you either stand up for what's right or you don't. I doubt the school has any authority to punish the kids but props to them for trying.
You really missed the point, Mattski. You're saying "Props to the school for violating the First Amendment." I hope you don't really mean that.
If the school wants to denounce their wrong actions, it can (and should) do so. But what the school has done is a far greater wrong than what the students did. The school is stating – as do many these days – that free speech is great so long as they agree with what you say. That's not freedom of speech. You find out whether you support free speech or not when you disagree with the speaker. What those students said was wrong. What leftists say is wrong. What people who attack religion (strike that; people who attack Christianity; there's a lot less bigotry against other religions) say is wrong. But they have every right to say it, and I – a conservative Christian – firmly support that right, even when there message – as a preacher with opinions I don't like recently put it – makes me "pukin' sick."
Religion is bigotry. Religions say if you don't belong to the group, you will be punished.
Christians say I'll be tortured for an eternity for not following their god. That sounds like a threat. Do I need to stand my ground?
I understand that Flyguy and you're right. But someone has to teach our children that hate and racism is wrong. If the parents don't do it, who will?
Another example of how our public schools are breeding a new generation of sheep that will never ask why but will instead adhere to all rules out of fear of punishment.
What are racist tweets asking why about?
Its the mentality of "do what we tell you is right and keep your mouth shut" that I was referring to. Your right to be an ignorant racist as long as you cause harm to none should be upheld, and you should never be silenced.
Kinda like religious private schools threaten you with god, amirite?
The school has no right to keep kids from being complete fools while off campus.
But at the same time, the school does have an obligation to teach what is the norm for acceptable behavior in a civilized society. So some kind of punishment is appropriate but not suspensions, IMO.
No form of punishment is appropriate. This had NOTHING to do with the school. The parents should be embarrassed except that this sort of thing usually starts in the home. However it is perfectly legal and the school has no legitimate reason to punish these kids.
Free speech has its limits and racism is one of those limits.
I'm glad you're not making the laws. What a terrifying thought.
Uh, nope, it's still free speech. If the idea of Free Speech protections is to only protect speech that everyone likes, then there is no need for free speech protections.
Sorry, but racist speech is protected. The best answer to that sort of speech is more speech. Our 1st amendment is far to valuable to endanger just to quiet the spouting of delusional people.
Free Speech has limits? please list them.
You serious? You're not allowed to say anything that infringes on other rights. You're actually limited in many ways - you can't threaten, harass, incite to riot, slander, lie in business or contractual dealings, lie under oath, insult an officer of law or court, contempt of court, plot criminal activity, solicit illegal services, endanger someone (by yelling "fire" in a crowded theater), break noise bylaws, and so forth.
In other words, you only believe in free speech if you agree with it.
There are very few limits to speech and racism is not one of them. You think otherwise? Please cite your source.
Nope, you are completely wrong. Threatening physical harm, creating imminent danger, and libel are the ONLY limits of free speech. If you don't like it, go to Europe where they have far more limits on speech. Just because you and I don't like it doesn't make it illegal.
There are other limits of "free" speech as well - lying (in business, legal or contractual situations), contempt of court, breaking noise bylaws, planning criminal activity, soliciting illegal services, etc.
Also freedom of speech only relates to legal consequences - i.e. will you get arrested or legally punished. It has nothing to do with private punishment - others are perfectly within their rights to fire you, refuse to do business with you, expel you from clubs, etc. This case has nothing to do with Free Speech since there isn't any legal consequence - the kids aren't being arrested.
Maybe the school should be more concerned about their academics standards and graduation rates. Even better, they should fire everyone that agreed with suspending these kids because the last thing we need are idiots that cannot understand the concept of free speech teaching our children.
matt – maybe if you'd learned to read in school, you'd have noticed that they were only suspended "from extracurricular activities and sports programs". They still get to go to class and get their education.
You're easily as much an indictment of U.S. schools as those racist twits are.
There was still no justification for punishing these kids. What they did had absolutely nothing to do with the school or their connection to the school. They did not even break any laws. They may be an embarrassment but there is no basis for punishment.
School discipline in this case is probably illegal (it's not clear from the news reports if there was any impact in school). However, school action is appropriate. It can be reasonably inferred that students exhibitting such behavior are at risk for participating in bullying. As such intervention by professional staff is appropriate.
The schools should know better than to try to discipline students for this behavior. They will lose in court and that will cost the tax payers.
Extra-curricular activities are still paid for by taxpayers. And if the school cannot punish them legally, then what is kicking them out of sports but a punishment?
The District needs to wake up before it gets sued for lots of money. People have a right to hate. An atheist might hate a Christian. A liberal might hate a conservative. A Laker fan might hate the Heat. Big deal – it's life.
Tolerance and diversity means tolerating those you might not like.
Racism is a learned behaver and should not be tolerated, but I find it ironic that schools are always quick to punish students, but when it comes to teacher who need to be punished for things, they hide them behind the unions and lawyers skirting around the issue waiting for the incident to disappear. Kind of like the incident in the NC school system. I think the schools need to police the inside of their own house before they pass judgement on the kids, and let the parents, be parents and take care of the situation.
What if I think a racist slur when I'm driving?
Also, it seems funny that certain races are more protected than others. If I make a racist comment against someone from England or France it will probably be more acceptable than if the person was Black, Jewish, or Latino. Why is that?
You can not make "racist" remarks about someone from England or France because English and French are not races.
ur an idiot! I hope you fall down and go to the hospitle
Because England, France, and being Jewish are not races. I understand your point but it is incorrectly stated.
Mental health researchers propose treatment for dysfunctional prejudice, treating pathological hate as a psychiatric diagnosis, treating patients for racial paranoia by administering a form of psychotherapy. Harvard medical school thinks patients who suffer from pathological hate might benefit from antipsychotic medications and other therapy. Admitting the patients have a mental issue could get the help needed to treat their delusional hate and fears.
Had your medication today?
sounds like they are the haters, forcing meds on people, thats the same bro
What if these racist tweets had been aimed at a fellow student?
Recent news stories have focused on young people who tragically took their own lives because of cyber bullying happening outside of school. Communities are up in arms because the schools didn't do enough. How should schools choose what to police and what to leave alone as "free speech"?
The point is that they were not. That is a different situation that involves bullying of students. No comparison here.
Suspendng them from school would have been one thing, and that didn't happen. Suspending them from participating in extra-curricular activities is something else. Participation in such activities is a privilige not a right. Most schools have codes of conduct for student athletes and students who violate them can be suspended or kicked off whether the misconduct took place on or off campus.
Participating in sports may be a "privelege" rather than a right, as you say. However, "participation in sports" is not the right that the school is violating. Rather they are attempting to suppress protected speech. This runs afoul of the rights enshrined in the First Amendment.
Also, FYI the First Amendment does have limits for example, speech that incites "imminent lawless action" may be punished–someone in a mob yelling "lets kill this motherf****r" for instance.
Exactly, any voluntary organization has the right to bar members for any reason including things they do else where. People are really confused here about "Free Speech" which has nothing to do with this (they're not getting arrested). There is no law baring private, vountary groups from barring people for any reason.
Anyone notice that you never hear about these kinds of punishments in inner-city schools where minorities may be saying "racist" comments. Racism is racism. Likewise, the school overstepped its boundaries.
So you went to an inner school and know this first hand, right?
The school has absolutely NO RIGHT to discipline these students. It was not done on school property, did not implicate the school in ay way or threaten anyone in the school. Besides the fact it is free speech. How about they stay out of it and try to run their school seeing as how it's not very highly ranked and could use some serious improvement.
Wow. When did I move to communist China? Anyway, I suppose the problem is that kids are NOT beholden to their parents so the schools step in. Parent's couldn't care less about their kids behavior anymore. And kids have no sense of how to properly behave in public. My parents taught us that it didn't matter what you thought about somebody, you don't go around being rude and disrespectful in public. And Twitter is definitely public.
Where do you think these kids learn to be like that in the first place?
It's only OK to be racist if you are doing black on white crimes.
It's clear that you are a racist. I doubt you are black, but it's okay that you're a racist. Everyone has a right to be ignorant and act like a fool, as long as they don't hurt someone else.
It's only OK to be racist if you are black.
No, it's also OK to be racist if you're not white. That covers it for me and my experience
as a white person in this country in 2012 and earlier back to the 1970s. So, whites beware.
You are a target and you are to pay for the sins of your forefathers and other whites in the
world. If you decide to defend yourself, then do so very carefully. If you decide to get out
of the offensive racist minority situation you may find yourself in, you're probably better off to do so.
This is America – everyone has the right to be racist. But this is America, so there will be consequences for that that you choose to deal with.
The school district is begging for a lawsuit. Like it or not, it's free speech. It wasn't disruptive to the learning environment so they don't have a leg to stand on.
Actually, I hope the kids sue the school district for future lost wages and opportunities. With all the "requirements" now for extra-curricular activities on college applications and how the "right" college leads to better employment opportunities, let these kids sue the school, and the principal,.for continued life-long support.
I agree completely with the columnists. Schools should not overreach their authority, which must be limited to their grounds and buildings (and activities, if on a field trip, for example). So-called 'codes of conduct' which appear to apply to non-school time are unenforceable under the law, and it can be clearly shown that an element of coercion applies... i.e. "sign this or you'll never do anything at our school, ever."
Clearly, it's not okay to make racist statements, but it's parents who are responsible for correcting either true racism in their children, or helping them to see how things that are said in certain manners may be taken wrong (i.e. well, "John says that word and he's black") or are inappropriate.
So what will be next ? During the summer vacation will the school monitor every students activity to ensure that it lives up to the school systems standards ? Don't think so. I think the responsibility is with the parents not the schools.
"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." -Voltaire
Even though I do not agree with what the children had said, however, the superintendent had no right to punish these children for their behavior outside of school. This unfortunate event should have been handled by their parents, not the school system.
we always talk about how we don't do what we learned in school. i learned out of school how not to be a racist. now we tell the kids to not do would be right out of school. my set of rewards for not seeing color were to have friends from diff. races show me how to stay focused on what makes that great. the differences them selfs. now what would these kids gain not acting right out of school. i know people who are in the way of me not being a racist now who think this is great. my lady and i think this is the next battlefront in the usa. it may even lead to open warfare!!!
The article says the students were suspended from sports and extra-curricular activities. Students participating in those sorts of activities often sign Code of Conduct contracts which extend to out-of-school behavior. This is why schools can lift a student's eligibility to participate for posting online pictures of themselves drinking or smoking. The school apparently didn't suspend the students from school.
The phrase "materially and substantially" affect a school's mission is pretty specific. It states that the speech must actually have had a negative impact on that mission, and not some theoretical "could have" scenario. In punishing these kids for being racists, they are in effect reaching into our homes and controlling our kids...and us as well. Without passing judgement on the wisdom of their words...or lack thereof...the school is telling parents that if they don't control their children's mouths, thoughts and thumbs, then the school system will. And that's as wrong as wrong can be. The school cannot make a big deal out of something and then claim that the backlash they caused is proof of the harm the child caused. That's like punching someone in the nose and then howling about being a victim when the guy pummels you into the pavement. These kids may have done wrong by society's standards but the legality of their words cannot be questioned by the school.
Wow! Consensus; and of all places, here. Excpet for Grafknar ((who I suspect is both an "educator" and not very bright) and Kevin who basically advises CYA for out of control political correctness (understandable but unfortunate), it looks like everyone agrees that the kids did the wrong thing but it's not the school's business.
If their comments have nothing to do with school activity, the school should back off. The kids will learn soon enough what everyone else knows – that racists are either people who arent very intelligent or who are overcompensating for some other deficiency in their lives, or both.
The story does not say whether the racist tweets made any mention of what school the students attended. If they did not, then the school could not claim that the students were representing any opinions other than their own. Unfortunately, it is not at all unusual for school officials to overstep their authority. They may think that they are teaching the students a lesson, and they are. But it is the wrong lesson.
Although I still think it is not right it still infringes on freedom of speech
Schools are not parents. They can teach what they want in schools, but they can't be their parent outside school. That's just ridiculous
I don't like the idea of setting a precedent of letting schools interfere with a child's behavior outside of school – that's the parents' jobs.
On the other hand, I don't blame the superintendent for wanting to keep these f%&kheads off the school property.
There is no grounds for the school to punish the students for tweets made off campus and in no way related to any type pf school activity. Yes, the superintendant and the school staff have the right to comment on the issue – it's the same 1st Amendment rights that the students have to make the comments in the first place.
In this case, it is strictly the jurisdiction of the parents to punish or not punish their children. In the end, it's going to come down to the parents' beliefs.
Yes, schools need to teach some type of moral ground, but when it comes down to it, it remains the job of the parents to form that basis for the morality which their children practice. If you have parents that condone such actions and teach their kids that its OK to make statements like that, no amount of schooling, suspension or teacher intervention will change that.
Don't get me wrong, as I am in no way condoning the making of racist or bigoted comments. I'm just saying that in this case, the school system has no grounds on which to award any type of punishment or other disciplinary action on these students.
It's called 'learning'. At some point, the kids will learn that racism is both wrong and pointless. Good to see that so many people get that.
Far too many people with some degree of power feel they simply have to act out against others when they disagree with them. The school folks have a bigger problem with their own arrogance than the kids do – the kids are still learning...
The school doesn't really have the right to punish these kids for their comments made out of school.
Though for my job, I signed an agreement saying I would not use social media to say something against my company as long as I work for them. So I can't list my company's name in my profile and then say something bad about them or misrepresent them.
Perhaps if schools are really worried about how their students are veiwed based on their behaviour out side of school walls they could do something similar. The student would still have the right to state their opinions, they just couldn't attach their school's name to it in anyway if the school's opinions differ, ie. saying something they aren't allowed to in school on social media and at the same time listing their school on their profile.
Or the school could just start adding in more anti-racist, pro-diversity curriculum and try to get rid of the racist hate their students have all together. Then perhaps this wouldn't be an issue
I think that the authority of the teaching staff should end when the student leaves campus. In the case of high school and below, it infringes upon a parent's right to decide disciplinary actions for their children.
I agree that the schools should not assume responsibility for disciplining these students. Responsibility should lie with the parents.
Wake up parents! Stop being so involved with yourselves and raise your children! This is NOT the 60's where you could raise your kids to think in a racist way– it's 2012, and your child's future ability to work, live, and succeed in life will be dependent on his/her ability to communicate with, inspire, or lead others who may or may not look like them!
Schools have a responsibility to teach moral values. Teaching does not and should not end at the gates of the school. I applaud the superintendent for taking action to teach students that what they say and do, both at and away from school, can have repercussions.
Schools have the responsibility to teach academics. It is my job as a parent to teach moral values to my children not the school.
Agreed, schools should focus on academics.
Seems to me, there's an opportunity for an excellent lesson here in history, writing skills, critical thinking, etc. Have the kids do some reading about race relations in history, either through history class, literature, even music – then have them write an essay from the point of view of one of the characters. Big Jim's point of view of one of the events in Huck Finn, for example. How did he see the events as opposed to Huck? What influenced his viewpoint (slave vs. free, literate vs. illiterate)? What aspects of society made those differences more important (economics, etc.)?
I'm not a teacher, but here's a few other character ideas –
Black soldiers in the military
Black musicians who couldn't stay at the hotels they performed at
Black pioneers in various professions – medical, government, whatever. Like I said, I'm not a teacher.
It's not forcing morals on a student if you require them to examine someone else's experience or point of view.
And of course you would agree with the superintendent's decision to discipline these children if HE was the racist and was punishing them for speaking out against racism as well, right?
You're really willing to hand over the teaching of morals to a person whom you may or may not agree with? I trust you're not a parent!
I agree... although distastful as it is... these students have that right. It would be the same if any klansman be fired from his job for beining in the klan, or the New Black panthers. You can not police thought.
While no one will condone racist comments made by children or adults, I don't believe that the school does not have the right to punish kids for something that was said outside of class, and that had no effect on the school system whatsoever. It's ridiculous that the school would even consider doing what should be the parents' responsibilities.
I completely agree with you. Where does this superintendent get off on puishing these kids for something they did off school grounds, protected by the bill of rights, and no harm to the school. I am the first one to stand up and speak out against racism, but I will also stand up against a "dictator" who tries to run his students life outside of school. It is just not right and an early form of socialism. It should be up to the students parents to correct and punish their children, not some power hungry superintendent.
What's the risk to the superintendent for at least trying to punish? Even if he's ultimately disallowed from punishing, he won't have to deal with angry parents, civil rights groups and his superiors as a result of inaction.
For something like this, I think in today's society, the best thing to do to protect oneself is to overreact / try to overreach so that you can't later be blamed for not trying.
The risk is exposing your employers to an expensive lawsuit and settlement for punishing the kids for something that happened outside of the school's authority (ie. not at school, at a school-sanctioned event or representing the school) and violating the kids' right to free speech. It's a potentially career limiting move for the superintendent.
Sam, schools punishing kids for racist tweets they made out of school has nothing to do with socialism. Socialism is not a synonym for totalitarianism, or dictatorship.
Socialism has everything to do with the government controlling everyday lives of it's citizens, such as a local government, in this case the school system, telling there kids what they can or cannot say.
Dan, nice try, but Sam apparently does not understand the difference between a political system and an economic system. You're right, though.
Its a very slippery slope, but the kids do represent that school. So I understand to a degree. But the parents should be embarrased
I disagree that they are representing the school unless they were tweeting this garbage under school accounts using school property. What you do outside school and work is your business unless you decide to bring in the name of the school or employer within the tweets. This should be a matter for the parents to take care of.
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