General Question

WyCnet's avatar

If kids Twitter about their teachers, can they be policed by school boards?

Asked by WyCnet (184 points ) November 23rd, 2012

Let me start with an abridged quote from Voltaire:
“I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it”.

Students at Brampton’s St. Marguerite d’Youville Secondary, in
Ontario, Canada were tweeting each other about their teachers as reported by http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1291360--brampton-students-suspended-for-twitter-comments-about-teachers on Friday November 23rd.

”...comments were made off school property and on private time, but the forum — Twitter — is public, and that’s enough to warrant a suspension, says the school board.”

One censor was claimed as to have said:
“We strongly believe that the consequences meted out were well in line with the inappropriateness of the commentary,” said Bruce Campbell, spokesman for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board.

Students were suspended from two to seven days.

Further it was reported that : The school’s principal, Kevin Greco, spoke to the school Thursday morning on the subject of “dignity and respect, regardless of the medium,” , however he failed to mention anything about freedom of speech in public.

Are these censors Canadian clowns or what? Isn’t this awful?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

15 Answers

FutureMemory's avatar

Do Canadians have as much ‘free speech’ as Americans theoretically do? I’m not really up on Canadian law.

marinelife's avatar

A student cannot just say anything about a teacher. There is no right to free speech involved. Students are not adults. They are subject to discipline.

WyCnet's avatar

@marinelife : There is no law governing what people can say. That is ad hoc social justice for students. I understand there is classroom discipline. I have stood in front of High School children and Western University Labs, and have never felt that people cannot think for themselves or form their own opinions, and be allowed to express their thoughts. What about that female High School student from Pakistan, who was not an adult, as you would say, but was shot by the Taliban in her head for saying things? marinelife, I honestly believe you are incorrect in your formulation.

gailcalled's avatar

To balance out iresponsible and/or jejune blabbering, there are the laws of slander and libel.

WyCnet's avatar

@FutureMemory : Canada is supposed to be a Western styled Democracy, but are tied to Head Office in England, and often time the Canadian Politicians run and hide under the Queen’s skirt, when things get too hot for them in North America!

WyCnet's avatar

@gailcalled : Exactly, laws already exist to protect people’s rights. Ad hoc social justice is something over which Western Nations claim to fight wars.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
Lightlyseared's avatar

Students can say what the fuck they like about teachers in private. Unfortunately twitter is a form of publishing and a tweet is a publication and therefore if you were to tweet something that casts an individual in an unfavourable light, for example “Mr Teacher is a fucking loser who lives with his mother and eats fish sticks”, then one would be guilty of libel. As it is possible to end up in prison for libel (one student in the UK found this out the hard way) as well as having to pay the other party large amounts of money these two student should be thankful that all they got was a short suspension hopefully they learn to be more prudent in the future. Being ignorant of the law is no defence.

WyCnet's avatar

@Lightlyseared : libel:: a false publication, in writing, printing, or typewriting, or in signs or pictures that maliciously damages a person’s reputation.

Calling anyone a loser adorned with colorful adjectives is not libel, because being a loser is a social stigma and not a moral stain! It may hurt but the pain is not eternal as a moral judgement may suggest. Additionally living with Mom, and eating frozen crab dinners is plain talk without any moral connotations.

I cannot accept your arguments based on those grounds, that I laid out clearly, the difference between moral judgement and social antipathy..

Lightlyseared's avatar

@WyCnet Unfortunately your understanding of the definition is faulty. If you had bothered to copy and paste the next sentence of you dictionary.com definition that may have been more obvious. , by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others

Is publically calling a teacher ” a fucking loser who lives with his mother and eats fish sticks” going to cause the target to be ridiculed? As the school had to send home another 9 students I would say yes. Did the student clearly and explicitly identify the statement as opinion? I doubt it. Can the student prove that what was said was true? Again, no. Now of course the harm done was minor but even so people should be more fucking careful about what they tweet.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Laws be damned. Students have no rights (and we see this over and over again) because they have no built-in defender or constituency. In fact the people who should be teaching the kids about free speech are the very ones trying to squelch them.

Of course students should have the right to say what they want on twitter or Farcebook. But the authorities tend to rule with a heavy hand – laws and rights are meaningless.

WyCnet's avatar

@Lightlyseared : You raised the question; Is publically calling a teacher ” a fucking loser who lives with his mother and eats fish sticks” going to cause the target to be ridiculed? My answer is not universally, because no moral judgement is involved.

I would have added that the teacher who was male, probably had to have Mom’s approval for a date…

PhiNotPi's avatar

I don’t think that the school board should have used a form of “in-house” justice such as suspensions and the like. In my opinion, those should be reserved for things that students do on school property or with school property, such as cheating, bullying, etc. If the child is out in the real world and does something that is actually illegal, then justice should be in the form of actual legal action, whatever that may be. The child should be punished in exactly the same way as if he had said the same thing about any other person, and the school board shouldn’t step in and give its own punishments.

That being said, I don’t know the law and I can’t say whether the student violated any laws.

ETpro's avatar

Courts have been largely supportive of school boards, principles and management abridging full freedom of speech when they feel that the maintenance of proper school discipline requires that they act. Courts have held that kids and teens in school are not full citizens and thus are not entitled to full first amendment rights. The kids and their parents are welcome to seek legal redress if they like, but there is a substantial chance they will not prevail, and the only winner then will be the legal teams that plead their case and defend the school.

disquisitive's avatar

It seems school age children should not be on Twitter, Facebook, and the like.

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