Penalized for posting

Jade Groble, Opinion Editor

I doubt anyone makes all of their posts appropriate for school, but headlines like “Student Suspended for Calling Teacher Fat on Facebook”, “Favorited Tweet Gets Student Suspended” and “Student Gets Detention For Calling Teacher a Communist” are making our choices at the keyboard seem a bit more important.

When searching Google for “student punished over Internet,” the majority of the stories are about a student being punished for their online comments.

These instances have opened up much discussion about how free public students’ speech really is.

In the court case Doninger v. Niehoff, high school teen Avery Doninger called her school’s administrators a bad word on her public blog, outside of school hours, on her home computer.

Her school found out about the post and denied her the right to run for student council office.

She and her parents tried to sue the school for violation of her free speech.

The court reflected that First Amendment rights in the school setting are inconsistent.

This reflects back to the controversial Morse v. Frederick case in which a teen unfurled a banner reading ‘BONG HiTS 4 JESUS’. He was outside of school grounds and watching the Olympic torch pass with his school.

In 2002, the boy and his family sued the school for violation of free speech because the principal seized the banner and suspended the student.

This case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court in 2007, which also ruled that students of public schools have limited First Amendment rights.

These aren’t the only court cases; there’s a whole list of public students trying to fight for their right to speak against their school, majority being denied.

But we rarely see any punishment at all, let alone court action, when it comes to students offending other students online or outside of school.

Unless someone’s physical well-being is threatened, nobody gets in trouble.

It doesn’t make sense then to crack down on students who offend teachers or administrators.

Nothing makes adults that much more sensitive to offensive speech online than teenagers.

Getting your feelings hurt by minor insults online is just another part of life for today’s teens, and we deal with it, adults should too.

It’s also important for public school students to be free to criticize their administration without suspension, just as it’s important that regular citizens can criticize our government without arrest.

These are principles that our country was founded on, and it’s important to apply them to all of our public institutions, including public school. In short, students should be able to say what we want about our schools online as long as it isn’t threatening.

We can’t hope for free speech in the future if our young people’s First Amendment rights are only conditional.