January 17, 2012

Am I Wrong To Be Troubled Here?

A few years back, I took a pretty strong stance for student online speech in the Avery Doninger case where it occurred off campus and was related to a matter of public concern Ė in particular urging people to contact the district about a decision to cancel a school event. I believe I was right then, and that eventually the courts will catch up with the development of the internet.

I have to be honest Ė Iím finding myself concerned about this vague report coming out of Cranston, Rhode Island, where a dispute (and court case) over a prayer banner at Cranston West High School has now led to a student from another school in the district facing discipline for online comments made regarding the plaintiff in the case.

A Cranston high school student has been disciplined for online comments against a fellow student who sued the School Department to remove a prayer banner at the school, said Ray L. Votto Jr., the district's chief operating officer.

The student faced internal discipline, Votto said, typically a form of detention.

Now letís be honest Ė it really isnít clear about what this kid wrote online or where he wrote it. Iíve seen a reference to particularly vile comments made by someone online, but I am unsure whether or not any of these comments are related back to the student disciplined by the district. The discipline seems to be related to the districtís bullying policy.

Now here is where my concern kicks in. Given that the student in question has become a party to litigation and revealed her identity publicly, it is hard to argue that she is not a public figure as it relates to the issue of the disputed banner. Posts and comments related to the matter, as well as statements made to the litigious student away from school, are related to a matter of public concern. What business does the school have taking any action on this matter? It appears to me that we are looking at speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment.

Now some may object that we are dealing with threats and harassment. To the extent that there are true threats being made and /or actual harassment as defined by relevant criminal statutes, those are still not a matter for the school to deal with when it occurs off campus. At such a point, it becomes a matter for law enforcement to deal with, and proper criminal charges should filed and adjudicated in the courts. And if there isnít a criminal violation, it is fundamentally inappropriate to shunt such off-campus speech about a matter of public concern to the schools, which operate with a much lower burden of proof and significantly less due process. The Supreme Court noted over 40 years ago that students do not shed their speech rights at the schoolhouse gate Ė it is therefore axiomatic that the schools cannot be used to suppress and punish student speech away from the campus, either.

Now some might think that Iím saying this because the student in question is presumably some sort of Christian and the target of the ugly speech is an atheist. Iím not. Indeed, I actually agree with the atheist student, Jessica Ahlquist, that the banner was not appropriate for a public school, and I think that the words of many of her critics are immoral and antithetical to the spirit of Christianity. But just as I think that Jessicaís right to challenge the banner is fully protected under the First Amendment, I also believe that the students who disagree with her are generally within their rights to express their opposition to her lawsuit and the outcome of it, to criticize (even revile) her religious beliefs, and to express their own beliefs as to what the afterlife holds for those who they see as the enemies of God while they are away from school.

By the way, Iíd like to acknowledge that Iím tempering this post a little bit for family reasons Ė indeed, the whole reason I didnít write on the court case at an earlier was because of those connections. My mom grew up in Cranston. I have lots of family living there to this day. Many of the younger generation attend the Cranston public schools. At least one cousin teaches for the district. Another, now deceased, was a long-time teacher and coach at the school in question and a beloved figure in the community. I donít know where various family members stand on the issue of the prayer banner, nor do I know if any of them have spoken publicly or online about the matter. But I think the broader speech issue, as opposed to the more narrow issue of the prayer banner, is one that I can write on without causing too much strife.

|| Greg, 04:15 PM || Permalink || Comments (0) || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Trackback Information for Am I Wrong To Be Troubled Here?

TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference 'Am I Wrong To Be Troubled Here?'.

Comments on Am I Wrong To Be Troubled Here?

Post a comment

Remember personal info?




Winner - 2014 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards
Winner - 2014 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2013 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2012 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2011 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2010 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2009 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Posts by Category

Announcements (posts: 13)
Blogging (posts: 187)
Border Issues & Immigration (posts: 421)
deferred (posts: 4)
Education (posts: 685)
Entertainment & Sports (posts: 483)
Guns & Gun Control (posts: 65)
History (posts: 329)
Humor (posts: 88)
Israel/Middle East (posts: 44)
Medical News (posts: 54)
Military (posts: 273)
News (posts: 1570)
Paid Advertising (posts: 234)
Personal (posts: 108)
Politics (posts: 5261)
Race & Racism (posts: 281)
Religion (posts: 819)
Terrorism (posts: 884)
Texas GOP Platform Reform Project (posts: 4)
The Courts (posts: 310)
Watcher's Council (posts: 482)
World Affairs (posts: 345)


January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
December 0000



Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Powered By

Powered by
Movable Type 2.64

Administrative Stuff

Email Me
Syndicate this site (XML)

Advertising Disclosure


About Me

NAME: Greg
AGE: 50-ish
SEX: Male
OCCUPATION: Social Studies Teacher
LOCATION: Seabrook, TX
DISCLAIMER: All posts reflect my views alone, and not the view of my wife, my dogs, my employer, or anyone else. All comments reflect the view of the commenter, and permitting a comment to remain on this site in no way indicates my support for the ideas expressed in the comment.

Search This Site

Support This Site

Recent Entries

Who Is Regan Theiler And Why Was She Allowed To Spend Public Funds On A Sole Source Contract For Her Part-Time Employer?
Not My Idea Of A Stimulating Evening
About Trump's Liberty University Speech
Do Not Place The Secessionist "Texas Independence" Measure On The 2016 Republican Primary Ballot
Conservatives Vs. Liberal On Those Engaged In Violent Political Activity
Tom Mechler Makes His Case Against Moving The 2016 RPT Convention
Jared Woodfill Makes His Case For Moving The 2016 RPT Convention
Questions About Moving The 2016 RPT Convention
Reject The Call To Move 2016 Republican Party Of Texas Convention
It Is Too Bad That Political Parties Cannot Reject Voters Who Seek To Join, Stop Would-Be Candidates Who Want To Run


Watchers Council
  • Ask Marion
  • Bookworm Room
  • The Colossus of Rhodey
  • The Glittering Eye
  • GrEaT sAtAn"S gIrLfRiEnD
  • The Independent Sentinel
  • JoshuaPundit
  • Liberty's Spirit
  • New Zeal
  • Nice Deb
  • The Noisy Room
  • The Razor
  • Rhymes With Right
  • The Right Planet
  • Simply Jews
  • Virginia Right!
  • Watcher Of Weasels

  • Political & Religious Blogs