Freedom of Speech is one of our most important rights as Americans. It’s one of those rights taken for granted too often, used as a defense in many controversies, and, in some cases, taken away with a frivolous reason given by public officials who overstep their boundaries.
The Amphitheater School District is one of those that overstepped its boundaries recently as it levied a five-day suspension on a student who did nothing more than quote the movie “Mean Girls” on her Twitter feed.
The Tweet was posted after 9 p.m. and in no way threatened anyone, accused anyone or made a statement that this student was planning to do harm on herself or others. While the quote was in poor taste, as a parent, I would be livid by the schools reaction. She was well within her rights to post it.
If you want to suspend students for quoting “Mean Girls”, you are in trouble because given how often my teenager and her own friends quote it, the halls would be empty at every high school across the state.
Besides complaining about cuts and a lack of funding for programs, teachers and administrators in many school districts have an even more common complaint about not wanting to serve as surrogate parents to our children. To a degree these complaints are valid. There are parents out there who use the school as a daycare, they do expect teachers to be the responsible parental figure in their child’s lives. After all, many of these parents feel they are either too busy, or want to be their child’s friend rather than the enforcer of discipline and rules.
However, at the end of the day, the lines should be clear. The schools are there to provide an education, and parents, whether they do or not, should be the ones raising their children.
As a school district, Amphitheater had no right to impose such a punishment. At minimum, the school probably should have counseled the student on what her post meant and how it might be interpreted. The tweet was posted outside of school, it is her private post and does not mention anything about anyone or anything at Ironwood Ridge High School. What this means is while some administrators may not agree with the post, and they may want to show some kind of action after recent accusations involving racial discrimination with the football team – this was not the correct action to take. This just screams an overreach of power.
In defense of schools today, the cyber world has presented major challenges. However, when it comes to politics, morals and beliefs – teachers and administrators must be careful not to cross the line. How a student dresses, what they believe and how they behave outside of school is no one’s business but the student and their parents.
If a student flat out claims to be racist, speaks out against a certain demographic or opens up about their political views – it is their freedom of speech.
Something that has annoyed me for many years now is high schools and colleges censoring school newspapers. Now, we have schools claiming they have some right to police our students’ private accounts. The only time it might be OK is if they are causing harm to others.
A five-day suspension for directly quoting one of the most popular movies for teenagers is nothing short of ridiculous. My other question also centers around how the Tweet even became an issue. Where did the administrators see it? Was this student, or this group of students specifically targeted? Has Ironwood Ridge started an educational campaign to let other students know they are not allowed to post offensive quotes from pointless movies? Does this mean they are not allowed to quote any movies ever, or just movies the school deems inappropriate? Has the school board convened to vote on the movies students aren’t allowed to quote? Will this be in a newsletter to parents letting us know that even after school hours our children cannot quote movies the school doesn’t like?
Once the line is drawn and a school district feels it has a right to not only cross, but leap well beyond it with an overreaction like a five-day suspension – where now is the line going to be drawn?