• Tue, Mar 18 - 11:15 am ET

High School Suspends 20 Students For Their Gossipy Retweets And I’m All For It

High School Students Suspended For Retweeting Shut up high school students. Seriously. Another day, another case of people shrieking about their first amendment rights because their special snowflakes were behaving like assholes. This case involves a group of 20 students who were suspended from school for re-tweeting a tweet that claimed one of their teachers flirts with her students and who her son is. Some of the students felt the need to share this gossip with their peers on social media and were suspended as punishment. The incident  took place at McKay High School in Salem, Oregon and the administrators at the school said that by retweeting the posting it was an instance of cyber-bullying. And, as you can expect, parents and students are all upset over the suspension. From the Huffington Post:

Still, parents and students involved say the punishment is an overreaction. Parent Patty Davis told local outlet KPTV that while she thinks her daughter should have been disciplined for the retweet, suspension goes too far.

“I think it needed to be a learning experience for them,” said Davis. “I think the school should have got them together after school or Saturday school, something that wasn’t so strict as far as the suspension thing that goes on their permanent record.”

 

And it’s not just parents who are all in a tizzy:

On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter to the district, condemning the suspensions and saying they should be expunged from the students’ records.

“In discipling those students because of their off-campus expressive activity, McKay High School officials have infringed on the students’ rights to free speech under … the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” wrote the ACLU, per KOIN.

 

I’m sorry, but whatever happened to school age kids having respect for their elders, including their overworked and underpaid teachers who work so hard trying to make them learn something? Suspension does seem a bit dramatic, but where do we draw the line? There has to be a way we can make our teens understand that spreading this sort of gossip about their teachers and peers is unacceptable and that their actions do have consequences. If they merely made the students attend a Saturday seminar to discuss the incident I doubt they would have learned anything. They would have just gone home and taken to social media to complain about it.

I defend teenagers a lot because I own one, but the thing is, when he acts like a jerk I call him out on it, and I punish him. I am teaching him to respect his elders and his teachers and to not be one of those kids who spreads hateful gossip on social media or off social media. What the kids in Salem did was thoughtless and stupid, and they should be punished for it. There have been many cases where we have discussed the type of things teens are reporting on social media, and the horrible effects this type of bullying leads to. In this day and age there is no excuse for teens to retweet these types of things, if their parents are doing their jobs and explaining to them how they should behave online and how they should treat this sort of gossip when they encounter it.

So the parents failed their kids, their kids got suspended, and now the parents are all mad at the school for discipling them according to school rules. Give me a break.

(Image: Huffpost video)

 

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  • CMJ

    Ugggghhhhh. I hate this shit. MAKE YOUR KID RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS!

    Additionally, I believe when something has to do with a school employee, they have every right to treat it as a school matter.

    I didn’t think the First Amendment protects anyone from libel.

    • shel

      And really, isn’t the first amendment about protecting you from government sensorship? As in the government can’t infringe on your right to free speech?
      That doesn’t apply to the school or your employer… (Unless you are employed by the government, I suppose, but that sounds like a much more complicated situation.)

    • CMJ

      Exactly – which is why the ACLU needs to STFU.

    • Rachel Sea

      Public schools are government run, so when they stifle speech, it is the an infringement (also why public schools can’t endorse religions), but that’s not what they are doing. Consequences exist for all speech, free or otherwise, and these kids have to pay them.

    • SarahJesness

      Since public schools are run by the government, it’s a much iffier matter. But schools are generally allowed to take away student constitutional rights if it’s getting in the way of a safe, comfortable educational environment.

  • Kay_Sue

    Most employers (in my experience) have a social media policy. This policy explicitly explains what behaviors are acceptable for employees of that company on social media and which ones are not, and also lays out consequences–up to and including termination.

    This is the real world. Teens today seem to have this idea that what you do on social media has no impact outside of that computer screen (okay, I’ll be honest–we never did as teens either), but it does. These parents are not doing their kids any service by helping them escape the consequences for this action, because learning how to conduct yourself online is an important life skill in the world that we live in.

    Anybody remember the Cisco tweet? It was in 2009 that it (supposedly) happened, but someone tweeted right out of a job because they didn’t think before they clicked. (If you haven’t seen it, it’s here: http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/39874)

    • Sexy Robotic Arms Dealer

      I agree. I hate internet trolls!!! >:(

    • Kay_Sue

      I bet you do! :-P

  • Bunny Lou

    You gotta love how one of the moms thinks a suspension will be on a permanent record.

    As an Oregonian that went to an Oregon high school and is currently going to an Oregon college; they don’t give a rat’s ass how many times you were suspended. They only care about your grades, extra-curriculars, and expulsions. That and how well you can write an admission’s essay.

    Also, I love how hyper these parents get about their special snowflake doing no wrong, you KNOW that if a rumour was going around Twitter about their children they would be screaming for blood.

    • whiteroses

      Yes. No sympathy for these kids, or their parents. Better they be suspended now than fired later. And this is the kind of crap that can get you fired.

    • bl

      I was wondering the same thing. How real is this mythical permanent record? I never had anything on mine to worry about, but if I were a college, I’d only be concerned about suspensions if there were like 5+ a year.

      And yeah, I’m sure they expect the school to protect their kids from this sort of thing. Works for teachers, too. I’d be impressed they were so supportive of the teacher and make my kid tell the school so in an apology letter, “Thank you for finding out the truth rather than relying on my idiotic tweets…”

    • whiteroses

      As an ex-college professor: the only thing the admissions office really cared about was if you’d been suspended/expelled for actually assaulting someone in some way.

    • chickadee

      It depends on the college or university you are applying to — if you are applying at a really competitive institution, a suspension can affect whether or not you are accepted.

  • Jen

    I teach in NY. Legally, the school has to respond and deal with cyber-bullying, even if it takes place off campus and after school hours. I thought that was federal law, but maybe it’s just here.
    Either way, those kids should absolutely be held accountable for what they said. A rumor like that could cause the teacher to lose her job and never be hired anywhere else.

  • jane

    I am normally a HUGE fan of the ACLU, but they are wrong here. Just because it happened outside of school doesn’t mean that it doesn’t impact “the learning environment.” Schools can’t punish kids for things they do on their own time, but if it carries over into school, then there can be consequences. I’d sure as hell say that insinuating sexual impropriety from a teacher would impact the classroom.

    • CMJ

      Exactly – they tweeted about a teacher have inappropriate interactions with kids. What the fuck do people expect?

      (Sorry, I’m so over parents sticking up for their special snowflakes. I’ve seen what happens when these kids hit the real world and it isn’t pretty)

    • JLH1986

      Plus what if these rumors ruined that teacher, who was from what I read, totally innocent? These parents don’t get this isn’t a “harmless” incident this had very real and very drastic consequences. Ugh. If they simply taught their kids to not be asshats no one would be suspended!

    • CMJ

      All I know is if I did something like that, suspension would be the least of my worries.

    • whiteroses

      Which means you were raised correctly.

    • JLH1986

      Yep. Going home to my parents would have been FAR more terrifying than suspension.

    • keelhaulrose

      As we learned from the girl who lied and said it was an intruder and not her boyfriend in her room (and got him killed) teens will lie to get out of trouble. A lie could cost a good teacher their job, and it’s more important to protect the rights of the teachers to do their jobs without fear that the students will start a career-wrecking rumor than it is to protect these teens against a perfectly reasonable punishment.

    • Brainspace

      YES. Plus, it’s often nearly impossible for teachers to find jobs once they’ve been in a situation like this, even if they’re cleared of any allegations. BOEs just don’t want to deal with it. There’s a very real chance this could ruin the rest of their career.

    • whiteroses

      When you teach, you absolutely must have a very clear line between being someone your students can talk to (as in, “i’m being abused at home and I need help”) and being their friend. If you’re close in age to your students, that line can be very blurred. But it’s so important to do.

      This doesn’t have any real-world implications for a student. A suspension is nothing compared to losing your livelihood, benefits, professional credibility, and the chance to get hired again in the future.

  • Zettai

    That one parent was wrong. It IS a learning experience. In fact suspending them makes it an even better learning experience than what… making them write 500 lines or detention. These kids are being prepared for the real world. When they are adults they cannot spread rumors about or talk shit about their bosses where everyone can see, either.

    • keelhaulrose

      Most school districts don’t go from zero to suspension unless it’s really serious and/or you’ve been warned. That teacher probably finds it serious, the school can’t just ignore what was said, and there’s a good chance she got some involuntary time off while they investigated. Even if she didn’t what are they going to learn by a slap on the wrist? That they can say whatever they want and the most they risk is their Saturday morning?

  • SunnyD846

    Where I live we just had a big issue with an app called Yik Yak that lets people send anonymous texts to other phones in the vicinity. You can guess what happened at the local high school. Horrible rumors and gossip began flying. One girl stood up in class and called her peers on it and the teacher (thankfully) scrapped the planned lesson to address it. I believe the app was somehow disabled. Kids are mean and don’t think about the repercussions of their actions. That’s why they need to be taught lessons early before things get out of hand.

    • Zettai

      Wow. As soon as you explained the app I though “Oh no.” I’m glad that girl and the teacher were brave enough to get it addressed and nipped in the bud.

  • Momma425

    Okay, first of all, kids NEVER respect their elders. This isn’t new. There are one, maybe two teachers that all the kids like and all the rest of them suck. The difference is that back in my day, when I gossiped and talked shit about my teachers, it was whispering in someone’s ear or writing a note on a piece of paper that was thrown in the trash. Now, gossip is broadcasted on the Internet for everyone to see always.

    I think that is the heart of the problem. When these parents were kids, bullying and gossiping were punishable offenses, but not by suspension. In fact, 99% of the time! nobody even got punished for gossiping. That doesn’t make it okay at all- but that was the world we used to live in. With new technology, and the easy access/public-ness of the Internet, the world is much different than the one we all grew up in. The punishment might not seem like it fits the crime- but the crime is different than when we were kids.

    • whiteroses

      Exactly. The Internet is permanent. And you should never write/post/tweet/blog ANYTHING that you wouldn’t want everyone on the planet seeing.

      As a former teacher, I am relieved that the administration has the teacher’s back. This crap can get someone fired. Not only that, but the teacher in question would never be able to teach again. That seems pretty damn serious to me.

  • JLH1986

    OH please…if one of those asshole kids had been the victim of the twitter gossip we’d be asking for everyone’s heads on a platter. Suspension wouldn’t be enough. Quite frankly if they continue that behavior in the professional world, their suspension would be permanent, as in fired. So suck it up, buttercup. Btw: I was suspended 2x in school once because a teacher refused to allow me a pass to the bathroom so I walked out of class (it was that time of the month, it was make a mess or walk, I walked) and once for fighting. No one has ever asked about my suspensions or even known about my suspensions. Not in college and not for a single job.

  • Anony-Mom

    One of the rare times I disagree with the ACLU. They’re on the wrong side here.

    And, to the parents and kids: You know what, guys? Sometimes you get punished for your actions. And you learn that you acted like an absolute FOOL. Welcome to growing up. These kids are learning a lesson about social media and gossip and cyber-bullying. I’m pretty sure the school had a cyber-bullying policy in place that covered this, most schools do at this point. They got suspended. Too bad that their parents didn’t teach them that actions have consequences before now, and too bad that they are also trying to teach them that you should raise a stink if you don’t like the way you are being disciplined.

  • Jallun-Keatres

    Not getting too into details unless someone asks but in the 8th grade a rumor went around the school that I was a lesbian and it was so bad it spread to the other local middle school. This was in 2002/2003 before social media took off. I shudder to think what would have happened if it was 10 years later…

    For the record, I am very much NOT a lesbian and the rumor didn’t actually bother me much because my old soul knew it wouldn’t even matter in a year and really, there are much worse things to be bullied over. I was mostly annoyed that people would ask me if I was, I would say no, and they would immediately interrupt me with “YES YOU ARE!” Apparently they knew more about me than I do even though none of them were my friends or even remotely close to me. My bad.

    • Zettai

      This reminded me of two youngish teachers that were good friends when I was in grade school. (Late 90s.) There were rumors that they were lesbians and once, while Ms. A was out of the room, someone in their class wrote “Ms. A and Ms. B are lesbians” on the chalkboard. Ms. A returned to the class, looked at the message, and busted out crying.

      It was handled badly; the class got a “talking to” by the principal but they bragged about making a teacher cry for the rest of the year–at least. Like your situation, I can’t imagine how awful it would have been for those teachers in today’s age of social media, but maybe the kids would have been punished more effectively, too.

    • libraryofbird

      A modern day The Chiderens Hour.

    • Zettai

      I had to look that up and the similarities are scary.

    • libraryofbird

      I played Mary (the horrible rumor spreading child) in a community production and the story and message always stuck with me. It’s message is relevant to every generation.
      Btw I’m not like Mary in real life but my “resting bitch face” and ability to give a dirty look is pretty impressive.

    • Shea

      I was in a community production of The Children’s Hour too, when I was 14. I played Rosalie. It’s a hell of a play.

    • Brainspace

      That’s awful.

      As a teacher, I always fear weak responses from administration because nothing is more damaging to my authority.

    • candyvines

      Ugh, similar thing happened to me in 8th grade, except the rumor was that I gave a blowjob to a boy at the school dance. Seriously. I barely even knew what that was. The whole school was talking about it – even teachers! It blew (haha) over after awhile, but I cannot imagine how much more awful it would have been if social media were around back then.
      These kids should consider themselves lucky they only got suspended, adults in the real world get fired over this type of behavior.

    • C.J.

      My daughter is in grade six and this just happened to her. She and her best friend had a rumour spread about them that they were lesbians along with two other girls that are best friends. My daughter’s best friend didn’t even know what the word meant. Her mother told me how she explained it to her, she still doesn’t really know what it means. Nobody has ever been able to successfully bully my daughter to her face so they did it behind her back. It did end up on the internet and some of the other kids sent it to my daughter, not to be mean, to let her know. My daughter is the kid that stands up to bullies for kids that can’t. She is a very strong, confident kid. I was really worried about the rumour because we live in a very small town. I went to the school and of course the principal did nothing. My daughter took care of it herself by talking to some of the kids involved. The ki that started the rumour did it to try to look cool to kids she wanted to be friends with. She used to be friends with my daughter’s group and wanted to impress a boy in another group. Unfortunately she has had to face worse consequences than school punishment. Nobody is mean to her but nobody trusts her anymore either. My daughter just feels sorry for her.

    • Kaili

      Same thing happened to me! I told my mom about it and she asked me how I’m handling it and I told her I was fine for now. When it escalated I asked her what I should do and she looked me in the face and told me whatever I do, don’t do anything on school property. So the next day when I got off the bus, the kid that started the rumour, started talking shit again. So I handed my book bag to a friend, squared up, told him to shut up, and when he didn’t, punched him in the face so hard he fell down. The ran the hell home as fast as I could! He stopped.

      Started a family war between our parents lol. My friend and I made up a few months later. I have no idea how I could have handled it on social media. Not that in think violence is the way to go. The adult me going back in time would have probably found a girl to make out with. Cuz then what can they say?

  • AlbinoWino

    I don’t think this should ever be something to take lightly. When you make these statements about any adult who works with kids, it can cause complete hell for the adult as all of those sorts of accusations need to be taken seriously. When I worked in residential care with teenage girls, they would frequently make accusations of misconduct agains staff members, sometimes claiming it was sexual. 99.99% of the time the accusations were invalid but even still our organization took it all very seriously and every time one of these instances came up, people from the state were sent to investigate. It happened to a woman I worked with and it was painful to watch her have to go in and prove she’s not a child molester because one kid held a grudge against her. These sorts of accusations have the potential to ruin people’s lives and should never be taken lightly. I am actually a bit disappointed the ACLU got involved in this.

  • ted3553

    When I hear this stuff, I think of stories my mom used to tell (although censored when we were in school as she was a teacher) about parents finding out their child was in trouble for various things and the parent would race in to the school and freak right out before even asking what happened from the school/teacher’s perspective. The difference is that when my mom walked by and saw me kicked out of the class sitting in the hall, her first question was “what did you do?”, not what did the teacher do that obviously led to her angel incorrectly sitting in the hall.

    • SarahJesness

      My dad has a lot of the same stories, but usually relating to bad grades.

  • tk88

    Finally. It’s nice to hear nasty kids getting in trouble and paying for the things they post online.

  • pixie

    Yeah, those kids need to be taught a lesson that what goes online is pretty permanent and can and does impact others’ lives when it is a nasty rumour. I’m shocked that these parents would even stand behind their kids knowing (or learning) that they spread rumours on the internet. They can’t be that old and/or out of touch with technology and the internet, can they?

    This reminds me of a story my riding coach told me about her youngest daughter who is about the same age as me. When she was in grade 7 or 8, when MSN was the shit (AIM and AOL messenger weren’t really a thing up here), a bunch of girls were spreading rumours about this other girl and sending it to all their friends via a giant group convo. My coach’s daughter got the rumour from one of her friends and was the only one to bring it to the attention of her mom. They printed it off and brought it to the school and informed the principal/vice principal as to what was going on. I think parents were notified and the kids involved (minus my coach’s daughter because she didn’t spread it or comment on it, just brought it in) were punished in some way. This was before cyber bullying was even considered a thing. Now it’s difficult for schools to punish things like that. *sigh* it’s kind of backwards in my mind.

  • AlexMMR

    When are people going to learn that “free speech” =/= “consequence free speech”? When someone bitches from a jail cell, through a ball gag, between torture sessions, before mysteriously vanishing in the night never to be heard from again about how their free speech is infringed upon, THEN I’ll listen to their arguments. If that’s not what’s happening to you when your “free speech” is being infringed, just shut the fuck up already because your mouth is clearly your problem.

    • SarahJesness

      Since it’s a public school, which is run by the government, it can be considered a matter of free speech. However, schools are allowed to change those rules to form a safe learning environment, like how you can’t walk around wearing shirts with racial slurs.

  • Rebekah

    Notice though that the only action taken is when it’s a teacher on the receiving end of the gossip. (Which may even be true, did anybody check? ) kids get bullied to self harm and suicide every day and nobody does shit. Yeah, parents are over protective, but that is not the most offensive thing in this situation.

    • Brainspace

      Um, no. There are many, MANY instances where false allegations are made against teachers and NOTHING happens to the kids. Teachers are told that kids are too young to understand the issue, they’re too immature to consider their actions, they are young and didn’t mean it, or their parents hold sway over the Board—no matter what the rationale, teachers are often subjected to this kind of situation with no recourse.

      However, that has nothing to do with student on student bullying. No one is saying that bullying should be ignored, but that’s not what this case is about. But seriously? Your comment asking if anyone checked if the teacher actually flirts with her students just reveals your anti-teacher bias. And do you think it was acceptable for the kids to post about her child online? Is that cyberbullying acceptable?

    • ElleJai

      My final year of high school, I had an awesome year level co-ordinator. Sadly he left at the end of the year because a couple of the girls (single sex school) were making bullshit claims that he stared up their skirts.

      I know this is crap because I was sitting in the same damn classroom one row back as they’re awkwardly trying out showing off bits of themselves to get out of trouble for not listening or doing any work, and without batting an eyelid he just told them to cover up and do their work.

      Teachers get bullied too, and it’s no fairer on them and the families they support than it is on the kids.

  • Rowan

    I wish people’s go-to response was to consider their responsibilities rather than their rights.

    • whiteroses

      Just because you CAN do something… doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

  • SarahJesness

    I’m REALLY iffy on schools being allowed to punish students for things they’ve done outside of school, but since the rumor in question is about a school staff member…

  • Georgia

    um … you ‘own’ one… what did you buy it off the slave trade or something… If you want teenagers to act like compassionate human beings treat them like compassionate human beings, not the pet rabbit >:(

    • candyvines

      I could be way off base here, but it might just be Eve’s humorous way of saying she is the mother of a teenager. We’ll probably never know for sure.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      No, I totally own him. he is my property. Somedays I would rather have a pet rabbit.

    • Allyson_et_al

      FWIW, that line made me laugh out loud. I own one, too, and, damn, they are high-maintenence.

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