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Suspension of Disbelief

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the not-the-kind-in-a-fluid dept.

Editorial 507

Frequent Slashdot Contributor Bennett Haselton writes in "A federal judge rules that a student can seek attorney's fees against a high school principal who suspended her for a Facebook page she made at home. Good news, but how could the school have thought they had the right to punish her for that in the first place? Posing the question not rhetorically but seriously. What is the source of society's attitudes toward the free-speech rights of 17-year-olds?"

Well, you knew this post was coming when you read the news. A federal judge has ruled that Katie Evans, who had been suspended from high school for creating a Facebook group calling one of her teachers "the worst teacher I've ever met," can proceed with her suit seeking attorney's fees from her principal for violating her First Amendment rights. Evans, now a journalism student at the University of Florida, is represented in her suit by the ACLU of Florida.

If any of the recent student online free-speech cases should have been adjudicated in the student's favor, this would most clearly be the one. As Judge Barry Garber wrote in his ruling, Evans's page did not contain threats of violence (if it had, it would have been a matter for the police, not for a school punishment), and the principal didn't even find out about the page until two months after she took it down. It's hard to believe that the principal's lawyers, if he consulted with them, would have gone along with a recommendation to suspend the student. And once the Florida ACLU contacted the principal, wouldn't he have realized that the longer he fought the case, the more legal bills the ACLU would amass, along with the possibility that the principal could be ordered to pay them? Even if he had estimated that there would only be a 5% chance that he could end up being ordered to pay legal fees, was it worth the risk, if the fees could come to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars? Well, now he knows.

When a different judge ruled that a student had no right to challenge his suspension for making a vulgar Myspace page about his principal, I said that there was no more objective basis for saying that the ruling was legally "right" than it was "wrong," because if you put 10 judges in separate rooms and ask them how they would rule on the case, you could get 10 different, mutually contradictory answers. Well, fair is fair — even though I support Judge Garber's ruling 100%, I have to concede that it did not necessarily follow inevitably from the facts and the law, and there's no objective basis for calling it "the" right ruling. Judges are not like doctors who look at a mammogram, and draw on experience that the general public does not have, in order to see something that would be hidden from the rest of us. In cases like these, judges simply have multiple plausible interpretations in front of them, and they pick one. As such they're acting more like referees (who make a decision so that the game — or, in this case, society — can move on) than true "experts."

There is a temptation to think that there is some consistent reasoning behind the different courts' rulings — say, that the student who created a vulgar page mocking his principal (the student was identified in papers only as "J.S.") went too far and crossed a line, while Katie Evans's page complaining about her teacher was clean enough to stay on the safe side of the line, and make her eligible for damages in a First Amendment suit. This, I think, is nonsense, an attempt to put a consistent theory on top of a legal system that does not follow consistent rules from one court ruling to the next. If different judges had been randomly assigned to J.S.'s case and Evans's case, then it might have been J.S. who won and Evans who lost. After all, it was a federal judge who once ruled that a Utah high school had the right to suspend a student for wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with "Vegan" and "Vegans Have First Amendment Rights." (The judge and the principal had apparently confused veganism with eco-terrorism.) How do you reconcile that with any of the recent rulings? (No prizes for guessing how that judge would have ruled if the shirts had said "Christian.")

But even if it's still a roll of the dice how a court would rule in a particular student free-speech case, what matters from the point of view of a principal in a future case, are the potential payoffs. What if you're thinking about suspending a student for a non-threatening, non-libelous Facebook page? If the case ends up in court and you win, then you get the satisfaction of being "vindicated." But if you lose, you could be ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars to the student's attorneys. So even a small number of victories for students in free-speech cases, even if mixed in with an equal or greater number of victories for the schools, still create an enormous incentive for a principal not to risk the case at all, when the potential gain is so small and the potential loss so huge. Even if you think there's only a 5% chance of being ordered to pay the student's $10,000 legal bill, that means you'd still have to decide if it's worth (on average) about $500 to get the satisfaction of suspending them.

(On the other hand, if a student created a page that was so threatening or libelous towards a staff member, that the school would run the risk of being sued if the principal didn't suspend the student, then the school and the principal are taking some legal risk either way, but the risk involved in suspending the student is much smaller. Fine — there's nothing wrong with suspending a student for threats of violence.)

So the ruling is a much more significant victory for student speech than many of the parties involved probably realize. Even though Judge Garber didn't actually award Evans her attorney's fees (yet?) — he only said that she could proceed to seek them against the principal — just the fact that it's coming dangerously close to that, means that principals in future cases now know what the risks are.

But why was all this necessary? How did the legal and societal climate of attitudes toward people under 18, lead to a principal thinking that he could punish a 17-year-old for comments that she made about a teacher, on her own time, to a third-party audience? If the students in the school had been comprised, not of minors, but of adults from some other minority group — African Americans, immigrant women, native Spanish speakers — there's no question that the principal never would have thought he could get away with suspending the student for criticizing a teacher.

Similarly, students at Harriton High School in Rosemont, Pennsylvania just discovered that school officials had given laptops to students to take home with remotely-activated webcams, that could be used to take photos in student's homes and transmit them back to school officials. Incredibly, this was discovered not by students or their parents examining the laptops, but because school officials used the feature to take a photo of a student in his bedroom, and then confronted him about "inappropriate" behavior, not considering that the students and their parents might consider it "inappropriate" that the school snuck spy cams into their bedrooms. (The school has issued a denial claiming, "At no time did any high school administrator have the ability or actually access the security-tracking software" — which doesn't seem to make sense, since the lawsuit was filed in the first place because the student was told by the assistant principal that the webcam had caught him engaging in "inappropriate behavior.") What was the school thinking? Probably, they were thinking, "These are minors, we can do what we want." If their student clientele had been comprised of adults, they never would have dreamed that they could confront a student about behavior in their room that they captured with a hidden camera. (Ironically, the school may end up in more trouble for spying on minors, as this editorial argues, since the school officials may now be guilty of recording and possessing child porn, depending on what the cameras "captured" in the students' rooms!)

So no matter how much ink is spilled analyzing the legal technicalities of suspending a 17-year-old student for off-campus speech, that's not what the case is really about. The case is really about attitudes. Change society's attitudes to think of 17-year-olds the way we currently think of 25-year-olds, and no judge is going to deny them their right to criticize their school on their own time, any more than a judge in today's society would deny that right to a 25-year-old.

And where does this attitude towards minors come from? I suspect that most people who believe that we have to draw the line somewhere around age 18, believe it for no better reason than because they were raised in a society where most other people believe it too. If you think that setting the cutoff age at 18 is just "common sense," then I would bet my house that if you had been raised in a society where the cutoff age was set at 13, that would seem like "just common sense" to you as well, and similarly if you had been raised in a society where the cutoff had been set at 22. This may seem like an unremarkable observation, but my belief in minors' rights has always been motivated by a more fundamental belief that you should not believe things merely because most people in your society believe them. If that sounds like a trite platitude, consider how few people in the US seem to question the rule that you can show a man's chest on television but not a woman's chest. In more liberal Denmark, supermarkets can stock tabloids at toddler-eye-level with photos of topless women on the cover, while in Saudi Arabia, adult women can't leave the house without covering their faces, and in all three societies, the majority thinks these regulations are just plain "common sense." Is the age of majority just another arbitrary illusion caused by the power of consensus?

When I said this on The David Lawrence Show, the host made the thoughtful observation that most countries all over the world set the age of majority for most purposes at 18. Close, I said, but it doesn't quite prove what it seems to prove, because those globally diverse societies did not reach that conclusion independently — they move in similar directions because of cross-cultural influences. (The voting age was set at 21 in many democracies before many of them lowered it to 18 in the 1970's within a few years of each other.) To get a better sense of whether there is any merit to the idea, we'd have to do something like the "putting the 10 judges in 10 separate rooms" test — put 10 different societies in mutual isolation from each other, let them develop and debate things on their own, and see if all or most of them reach the conclusion that 18 us a good cutoff age for adulthood.

The idea that actual children — under the age of, say, 11 — are qualitatively different from adults, has in fact been re-discovered by civilizations that developed independently at different points in history, all over the world. So there's probably something to it. The idea that teenagers are qualitatively different from adults, is something particular to recent history, and a wise person transported forward in time from the 1500's to the present day might scratch their heads and wonder why we think that 18-year-olds should be allowed to criticize their teachers but 17-year-olds cannot. I suspect the artificial extension of childhood grew out of the fact that because modern jobs are more complicated than they used to be, we need more years of schooling before we can go out and compete in the workforce. The fallacy there, though, is that just because we need more years of schooling, doesn't mean that the natural age of "human maturity" has gone up. So we end up with 17-year-olds having to go to court to establish their right to criticize their teachers on their own time.

Judge Garber wouldn't have been in a position to make this argument in his ruling even if he agreed with it. But even if his ruling was based on logic that has nothing to do with the underlying case for minors' rights, it was still a step in the right direction.

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Tee ell (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230010)

Dee aarr

Re:Tee ell (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230732)

Once had my "computer privileges" revoked at my high school because the sysadmin/network admin (who didn't deserve to be given that title) found a blog post of mine denoting his flaws.

Needless to say, I bypassed the need to login to Novell and still did my schoolwork.

By the way, Bill Gade of 83 North (877-734-6044) in Swan River, MB, you're gay.

Ageism (5, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230046)

I've always been against ageism, and have been active in youth rights, first as a minor, but later as an "adult".

The scary thing is, I just don't think age has much to do with maturity.. I've met plenty of minors who seem to have a really decent grasp on maturity, while I've met plenty of 18+ who will never grow up.

Curfews and other discriminatory things are inherently ageist, and should be examined. Let's let parents do some parenting, shall we?

Re:Ageism (4, Insightful)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230106)

Unfortunetly, Ageism is generally only considered to be "descrimination against people for being too old", not the other way around. This is definetly something that should be changed in my opinion.

Re:Ageism (4, Insightful)

qoncept (599709) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230246)

Meh. Minorities can't be racist, women can't be sexist. Good luck reforming society.

Re:Ageism (5, Interesting)

Akido37 (1473009) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230136)

Interesting how it's taboo to discriminate against the old, but not the young.

Bars that won't let you enter unless you're over 25, although the drinking age is 21.

Apartment complexes that won't rent to you unless you're over 55.

In both these cases, the reverse would be unthinkable.

I don't want smelly old people in my bar or apartment complex - nobody over 40 allowed. Why does this bring a lawsuit, and the former does not?

Re:Ageism (1)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230236)

As a young adult (24) I often find vacation spots and condos that won't rent to anybody under 25. I find that incredibly offensive as well. Since I am mild mannered and am often looking to rent a condo to escape the high-pressure day-to-day, I'd assume I'm actually a perfect guest, one who is quiet and generally no hassle.

But apparently my money is no good. Is there any basis for an ageism suit? Doubtful. But it's clear ageism happens across the entire age spectrum.

Re:Ageism (3, Insightful)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230326)

Have you been around many of your age-peers lately? I'm 26 myself, and remember enough of college to think that denying a vacation rental to college age kids is a great idea.

Places that restrict rentals in such a way are worried about a group of immature people coming in and destroying the place without any means to pay for it.

Re:Ageism (1, Insightful)

liquidsin (398151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230610)

in your second sentence, replace "immature" with "black". we could take the time to reword the first sentence too, but i hope you get the point....

Re:Ageism (3, Interesting)

MrMickS (568778) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230640)

Places that restrict rentals in such a way are worried about a group of immature people coming in and destroying the place without any means to pay for it.

This can be solved, in part, by paying for additional insurance to ensure that the cost of the damage is borne by an insurance company rather than the renter. Of course the insurance company will hike up the cost if the renter is under 25.

Interestingly its fine for insurance companies to discriminate based on age. They make no bones about using age to form part of their assessment as to what premium to charge. Are they exempt from anti-age discrimination law?

Re:Ageism (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230400)

Makes perfect sense...

Most people under 25 who rent a condo in a vacation spot are going to have a party there and it's unlikely to be a formal dinner party. After a few 'parties' in one of your condos you'd be hanging up a "No under 25s" sign too.

Re:Ageism (2, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230564)

It's a good point, but no less ageist. It means stereotyping (and don't forget discrimination) based on my age instead of who I am.

Often, to segment customers and discourage the wrong crowd from your business, putting hurdles is customary. To avoid the lower class from a 5 star hotel, they charge the amount only classy people would pay. Do some people sneak past that filter? I'm sure they do. But it's certainly less discriminatory than ageism. If you can pay, you can play.

Re:Ageism (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230580)

Makes perfect sense...

Most people under 25 who rent a condo in a vacation spot are going to have a party there and it's unlikely to be a formal dinner party. After a few 'parties' in one of your condos you'd be hanging up a "No under 25s" sign too.

I wonder if a 34-year old landlord would feel the same when they went on vacation and found a similar bullshit policy walking into a "No under 35" sign after dropping some serious coin on a nice vacation spot?

And for the record, no I'm not under 25. My whole point is that is why a landlord has policies and rules and a solid contract, to avoid such discrimination. I mean, hell, this is generally what deposits are specifically written into contracts for, to cover such abuse.

Re:Ageism (3, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230762)

I wonder if a 34-year old landlord would feel the same when they went on vacation and found a similar bullshit policy walking into a "No under 35" sign after dropping some serious coin on a nice vacation spot?

As a 34-year old that would make me ecstatic that I was considered too young for something.

Re:Ageism (3, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230678)

Just make a "no party" clause with huge monetary penalty for breaking. Make it bloody obvious from the beginning that this clause is there, and that it will be enforced if necessary.

Re:Ageism (3, Funny)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230448)

    Places set their own rules for their own reasons.

    Ya, a vacation condo rented to someone under (or even around) 25 could potentially be that renter looking to rent a party spot.

    Then again, anyone can do that.

    I knew of a hotel in the town I grew up in, that wouldn't allow unmarried couples to stay there. The restriction was that if a man and woman were sleeping in the same room (even if in separate beds), they had to be married, with the same last name, and provide photo ID's to prove it. I was talking to the owner, and he said it was to keep people from coming to his fine establishment and committing sins. Oh, did I mention that they sold bibles and a whole assortment of religious crap in their lobby?

    You gotta love the hard core bible thumpers. I'm pretty sure that it doesn't say in the bible that two people can't rent a hotel room and not have sex. :)

Re:Ageism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230486)

Since I am mild mannered and am often looking to rent a condo to escape the high-pressure day-to-day, I'd assume I'm actually a perfect guest, one who is quiet and generally no hassle.

How is the condo owner supposed to know that?

Re:Ageism (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230286)

I don't want smelly old people in my bar or apartment complex - nobody over 40 allowed. Why does this bring a lawsuit, and the former does not?

Because old people tend to have more money than young people?

Re:Ageism (1)

sleepdev (1374409) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230388)

Simple answer being that the younger group can't afford attorney fees?

Re:Ageism (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230446)

Meh, those are private establishments that have their own rules. If you don't like it, don't give them money when you're the age they will accept money from you.

Re:Ageism (1)

hot soldering iron (800102) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230568)

Because older people usually have the money and connections to get what they want, and younger people usually don't. Don't confuse a "right" with a "capability". Rights and laws are normally defined by agreement and social convention, but are "granted" by the threat of violent force. Children have limited capability or experience with violence and will alway be at a disadvantage against an older adult.

Re:Ageism (4, Informative)

Amouth (879122) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230584)

not sure about the Bar's but the 55+ living communities are an interesting thing - that is normally due to a city ordinance for utilities hookup.

see Old people use less water and power and sewer than young people because the normally don't have kids or other family - in fact the number of people in a house hold is usually 1/2.

this allows for the developer to do higher number of homes or apartment in a given area without having to foot the bill for increasing the utilities run to that parcel of land. They get a permit for using the connections with a 55+ community - then get to uses that permit as their reason for restricting sales - and keeping it restricted via HOA agreements.

I'm not saying it's right at all.. BUT that is how it works..

Re:Ageism (3, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230702)

You obviously have not been to many of the bars in Calgary.

There is blatant Ageism, Racism, even uglyism.

It's common knowledge that such and such a bar doesn't let in Asians. Such and such a bar hates hispanics. This bar is for 14 year olds pretending to be 18. This bar doesn't allow anyone over 40.

Not a single lawsuit to follow any of these. The bouncers can always say "Its your shoes" or come up with any excuse they want.

Re:Ageism (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230742)

Uuum, I’ve seen my share of student parties, where you couldn’t get in, unless you were young and had a student ID.
And there are enough other things that you can’t do if you’re older.
So your whole argument is based on selective picking of one-sided arguments.

Re:Ageism (3, Insightful)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230746)

Because old people have the time, resources and experience to make you eat your rule. Additionally, even if they are old or senile, chances are that they have spawned some children who have become adults who don't want their parents fucked with.

I have to admit that right now, it seems like teens who are for the most part, pretty much physically adults, are being treated like children. That has caused all sorts of problems. On the other hand, looking back at when I was 17, I was smart, and didn't get into too much trouble, but I was completely inexperienced compared to the way I am years later. And the thing is that some of the most important lessons I have learned weren't a few years later, it was more like five or even ten years after.

So I am torn between advocating rights for teens over say fifteen or so, or demanding that no one gets to vote or be an adult until they are 25. Honestly, the answer is probably "both", depending on the level of experience that they need to make certain decisions. The reason to lower the voting age to 18 was because you could draft 18 year olds into the military. It was therefore considered appropriate to at least let them vote for the people making that decision. I consider that fair even if it means that we have a more inexperienced voter pool at the low end. However, I don't really want anyone younger than that voting. There are people who are too ignorant to vote at 25, let alone have teens vote who haven't even finished their basic education.

As for bars and car insurance companies that discriminate against single men under 25, let's face it, at least in the case of the insurance companies, they've done the studies and both know their target audiences. You can argue the alcoholic drinking age all you want, but while it is in effect, people are going to be more likely to binge drink for a good few years after they are legal. I don't know about 25, but 22 or 23 definitely doesn't seem like a stretch to me to ban all those undergrads.

Re:Ageism (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230290)

I tend to find that those who claim a certain maturity level are often the least mature.

Re:Ageism (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230472)

Agreed.

Re:Ageism (2, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230500)

While I'm sure there are instances where this may be found as true, I really dislike the use of thought-terminating cliches.

I would prefer to judge each person's maturity based solely on their maturity. (Redundant, but needs to be said).

Awareness of one's maturity or lack thereof does not, in itself, decide ones maturity. And while maturity is a highly subjective matter, having an honest view of ones self does not always imply ego, and therefore is not inherently contradictory of maturity in itself.

In fact, I'd consider one who is mature to have a much more accurate self-view than one who is not. And while it is considered uncouth to speak of such things, as it is commonly considered egotistical, it must be defined in context- such an opportunity which you have just forgone in favor of an adage instead of logic.

Re:Ageism (1)

mrrudge (1120279) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230722)

That's what all the kids say ( :

TLDR (Too Long, Did Read) (3, Insightful)

Bottles (1672000) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230048)

Can someone tag this 'article in the summary'?

More contributors like this please.

Re:TLDR (Too Long, Did Read) (-1, Troll)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230084)

It's unfortunate that you couldn't spend 5 minutes to read the article, but there's no need to boast to the rest of the world how lazy you are.

Oh, inb4 you explain to me how you're a busy person who couldn't possibly waste all of his precious time reading the article.

Re:TLDR (Too Long, Did Read) (1)

Bottles (1672000) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230132)

Er .. read my subject line again. Carefully.

Should I have added smilies and humour tags too?

Re:TLDR (Too Long, Did Read) (1)

drachenstern (160456) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230252)

Probably was too long for him. Thought it was cute that he kept the subject line but couldn't be arsed to read it... Irony is a beautiful thing.

Re:TLDR (Too Long, Did Read) (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230316)

Should I have added smilies and humour tags too?

Don't forget the sarcasm tag.

Re:TLDR (Too Long, Did Read) (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230172)

Apparently his post was too long for you to read. He said "Too long, did read" and "More contributors like this please". Maybe you should take the time to comprehend before replying.

Re:TLDR (Too Long, Did Read) (3, Insightful)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230108)

Then it's not really summarizing, is it? Wouldn't that be whole point of having a summary?

The right decision is easy. (5, Insightful)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230094)

If it happened outside of school and it was illegal, call the police.

If it happened outside of school and it was legal, mind your own business.

Re:The right decision is easy. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230262)

Freedom of speech applies to adults (i.e. over 18 in some states, over 21 in others). There is a broad range of maturity in teenagers, some 15 or 16 year olds may be mature enough to be responsible for what they say and do, but many 18 year olds are not responsible enough, so you have to draw the line some where. Otherwise we wouldn't have age restrictions on alcohol, pornography, smoking, having a vehicle license, being able to vote, etc...
This is why many states have juvenile laws that are separate from adult laws. Now - as to why the school has the right to say what she does out of school, that's another matter.

Re:The right decision is easy. (1)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230434)

Freedom of speech applies to adults

I presume you meant adults only. Citation please.

Re:The right decision is easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230662)

There is a broad range of maturity in teenagers, some 15 or 16 year olds may be mature enough to be responsible for what they say and do, but many 18 year olds are not

You highlight the real issue. What we should be doing is figuring out a legal structure that identifies where people have behaved appropriately and where they have not. However for expedience, rather than identifying appropriate behaviour, the expedient option of saying maturity = 18+ years is used, which clearly is not true.

Schools, holiday destinations, bars (last 2 mentioned in other responses) should base their judgements on appropriate behaviour rather than the age of the individuals. Further, this is actually how adults are judged. If a 30 year old behaved in inappropriate ways they would be punished, the issue is that people under the age of 18 who behave appropriately are punished because "all children behave inappropriately", that's just absurd.

Re:The right decision is easy. (3, Interesting)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230382)

This brings to mind the recent case [techdirt.com] where a student was using a school-provided laptop at home and the administrators turned on the webcam remotely "for security reasons." The student was disciplined for "improper behavior in his home." The school never said what the conduct was. Some theorized it was sexual in nature while others said he was eating Mike & Ikes which the administrator mistook for drugs.

In any case, if my child is doing something improper at home, it is my job to punish him, not the school's. If it impacts his schoolwork then the school can either give him bad grades, work with me to correct the behavior and/or take action if the action "spills over" into school (e.g. he comes to school high/drunk even though he wasn't taking drugs/drinking at school). But punishing a child for actions that apparently were exclusively done outside of school is *NOT* the job of teachers, principals or any other school official.

Re:The right decision is easy. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230484)

If it happened outside of school and it was illegal, call the police.

If it happened outside of school and it was legal, mind your own business.

I am a conservative and over 40, a parent of three school age children and I couldnt agree more. They are trying to legislate a schools right to ground children as though the school/state is the parent. Dangerous territory. Whats more, are our civil rights so damaging and dangerous that they cant be extended to children, or at least defined/abridged in an explicit way? I have met adults that arent more mature than a 15 year old. Maybe their rights should be removed too, hmm?

Re:The right decision is easy. (0, Troll)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230664)

It could potentially be considered defamation or slander. In that case, the proper recourse if it occurred out of school would be to sue the 17-year-old student -- hardly an improvement but probably on more solid legal grounds. In this case, the Facebook page appears to present an opinion and doesn't pretend to be factual, thus slander wouldn't apply; however, my point is that the law can't be applied to minors in the same way that it's applied to adults.

High-school students who are under 18 certainly have the right to free-speech but it is also the responsibility of the parents and the school system to teach them correct behavior (that Facebook page, free speech or not, is inappropriate). Suspension was a poor choice, it should have been dealt with by bringing it to the attention of the parents, but free speech isn't a free pass for bad behavior. Some people will always behave poorly, but until they turn 18 they can be punished outside the legal system for minor misdeeds. It's better than punishing them within the legal system.

Re:The right decision is easy. (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230734)

What if the action affects the operation of the school? What if the action is against anti-bullying rules that students have to agree to in order to attend?

If I created a group outside of school that said 'xyz is stupid, she'll fail all of her tests, lets all talk about how stupid she is' that, although it isn't illegal and could be argued as being an opinion of her abilities as a student rather than a direct insult, if a school found out about it, I would fully expect them to treat it as bullying and to get punished. Just because it's a teacher doesn't stop it being bullying, even if you dress it up as only criticising her as a professional (there are plenty of avenues available to people to voice concerns over a teacher).

Can you say "rant"? (3, Insightful)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230098)

How many different directions and issues do you need to drag up in one Slashdot posting????

Maybe you make some good points, but your rambling makes me put you in the "tinfoil hat" category. Don't drag down one good argument by associating it with 7 less important ones.

Re:Can you say "rant"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230336)

Yes, thank you.

The writer can't decide on which message to deliver and keeps going back and forth between viewpoints, while the reader is waiting for a point that takes forever to arrive.

Also, his commentary about the legal system can be summarized by noting that judges, like most people, are typically idiots. He gives this liberal arts presentation on how they're supposed to choose between many ill defined interpretations, blah blah, when in fact most absurd rulings are either due to politics or stupidity.

Finally, shame on the people who modded you down for pointing out the truth, even if it sounded harsh. Most moderators on slashdot are clueless (again, an instantiation of the rule above).

Re:Can you say "rant"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230570)

In effect, to me, it came off as:

"Well... mrmrmmnnnnnyeah I guess justice was served but I still hurt inside! I want to rip their souls through their noses so they hurt more and more and more and more all day long and then all their friends hate them and they die and I can make them come back to life and kill them every day because I hate them."

They're too young to (legally) have sex with. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230118)

So why should they be allowed to say whatever they want?

Every generation does it (4, Insightful)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230138)

We rage against our parents, get older and then oppress our kids. Happens without fail.

What's disturbing now is that the current generation looks like kittens compared to the last three or four that came before. Truth is, they're being oppressed by adults who came from a generation of serious trouble makers.

I suspect that's where a lot of the worst of it comes from. We just assume the problem is with young people, and never stop to consider whether the problem was if our generation was maybe a little too fucked up.

Re:Every generation does it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230280)

There's a bright side to it, actually. With people's life expectancy getting longer, we can expect to oppress our parents later.

When we grow older and technology advances enough that immortality is within reach, we shall exterminate all our offsprings and stop reproducing altogether, and look for ways to expand our minds instead of reproducing our genes.

The only thing that can stop us is actually our next generation or two... we really should brainwash them in our schools from now on, teach them nothing but absolute subservient. The older generation will think it's entertaining for a while, until we strike and kill them all in cold blood.

Re:Every generation does it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230450)

Rage is only the first step. Hatred comes next. The third step is bloodbath.

Thank you for your education, older generation.

Re:Every generation does it (1)

voodoo cheesecake (1071228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230620)

Add to that mixture the era of homeland insecurity, a shaky political foundation that's spun out of control, an economy that has failed and they're up against an overwhelming system that - well let's hope they rise up and say enough is enough and usher in an age of accountability where those in authority are sentenced proportionately to the number of lives they've hrmed, simplicity and mercy. I hope they humble us all.

Some Legal Background (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230208)

Not a lawyer but found resources [umkc.edu] (site is cosmetically terrible but information rich) on some case histories in this sort of thing.

Probably the closest case to that is Morse v. Frederick [wikipedia.org] in which students stood just off school property with a banner reading "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS." Basically what it seems to come down to is that you have some first amendment rights as a minor in school unless your message contradicts stated school goals or hinders the learning process.

So the banner contradicted their anti-drug agenda and therefore it was ruled as okay to suspend them for the act. Similarly I guess a judge could interpret undermining a teacher's status as an authority figure to be an inhibition of the learning process in the facebook page. I don't agree with that ruling but this didn't seem to be addressed in the lengthy opinion piece presented above.

A classic case of a message not hindering the learning process was Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District [wikipedia.org] in which black armbands were worn to protest the Vietnam war.

In high school some kids circulated a 'zine that was laden with four letter words [slashdot.org] and was distributed via a student's access to his mom's work's photocopying machine during after hours. We were aware that some of them had been confiscated and you got detention for profanity but since we never really attacked teachers, it never resulted in suspension or worse. During the 'vest craze' of the late nineties, I fashioned a vest out of duct tape and made "Old Navy Sucks, GAP Blows" out of duct tape letters on it. And I was allowed to wear it throughout the whole school day claiming it was a political message if anyone gave me grief. I actually recall being pretty disappointed at the lack of attention I was given for it. The school had some rule about profanity so if you wore a shirt with profanity you had to turn it inside out. I guess 'sucks/blows' wasn't foul enough.

Long story short: as a minor you have some free speech rights in school but not all of them. Any that violate the reason you're in school are restricted. Any that undermine the stated goals of your institution are restricted. I think it's sad that this gets escalated so much ... was the teacher really that insecure of themselves that they thought the Facebook group hurt them?

Whatever was going on in Utah needs to be looked at though [libertarianrock.com] . That story was downright disturbing. "Curbing the straight edge movement" was one of their school's stated goals?! Vegan statements were construed as 'straight edge'?! I must have missed something about the dangers of the straight edge movement and veganism because that smells like complete administrative bullshit from where I'm standing.

Re:Some Legal Background (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230696)

Ok that Utah one us downright crazy.
I mean of all the insane...
I mean... ..... .... ...

Banning the word "vegan" in school for the sake of discouraging an organisation based around not drinking, smoking or using drugs.

there is so much wrong with that situation....

human nature (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230214)

What is the source of society's attitudes toward the free-speech rights of 17-year-olds?
When one human being is in a position of authority over another in one domain, they will tend to leverage that into coercion in any and all domains in which they are related.

Tricking us into reading TFA! (5, Funny)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230222)

How dare they trick us into reading TFA! It should be my constitutional right to have a genuine Slashdot summary complete with mis-quotes and misinformation not this bloated full page article masquerading as the former. I don't have time to read TFA, I'm supposed to be working...

ugh (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230254)

There is a temptation to think that there is some consistent reasoning behind the different courts' rulings -- say, that the student who created a vulgar page mocking his principal (the student was identified in papers only as "J.S.") went too far and crossed a line, while Katie Evans's page complaining about her teacher was clean enough to stay on the safe side of the line, and make her eligible for damages in a First Amendment suit. This, I think, is nonsense, an attempt to put a consistent theory on top of a legal system that does not follow consistent rules from one court ruling to the next.

If you read the opinion, you can easily see it's distinguishable from the J.S. case. I do not know why a non-lawyer has become slashdot's quasi-official legal analyst.

Real Question: Jurisdiction of Public School (4, Insightful)

reporter (666905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230266)

The issue is not really about free speech. The victim in this case is surely free to publish whatever she wants on Facebook, regardless of whether she is suspended from school.

The issue is whether the school has jurisdiction over activities that a student performs outside school. Legally, the school does not have any such jurisdiction.

For example, consider a Christian fellowship meeting. The governing council of a school district can ban the conduct of such a meeting on the premises of the school, but students wishing to attend a Christian fellowship meeting off campus are free to do so. Once you walk off the premises of the school, you are free to do whatever you want.

Consider another example. Smoking cigarettes on campus will result in a suspension. Yet, smoking cigarettes at about 1 foot outside the perimeter of a campus will result in nothing.

Re:Real Question: Jurisdiction of Public School (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230440)

The issue is not really about free speech. The victim in this case is surely free to publish whatever she wants on Facebook, regardless of whether she is suspended from school.

You aren't free to do something if you are punished for doing that thing. You wouldn't maintain that she was free to post the web page if she was jailed for a day, or harassed by the police for doing so. This is an issue of free speech AND limitations on the authority of schools, who should, incidentally, get back to teaching children, not trying to raise them.

Consider another example. Smoking cigarettes on campus will result in a suspension. Yet, smoking cigarettes at about 1 foot outside the perimeter of a campus will result in nothing.

That's how it should be, but I bet one could amass a large group of people who have been disciplined for smoking near school grounds.

Re:Real Question: Jurisdiction of Public School (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230488)

What about a current student sitting one foot outside the school perimeter holding a sign that reads "The principal is an asshole!"?

IMHO, anything that disturbs the teaching going on in the classroom should be squashed. Kids need to focus on the big picture and why they are there in the first place.

Re:Real Question: Jurisdiction of Public School (1)

coats (1068) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230546)

IMHO, anything that disturbs the teaching going on in the classroom should be squashed.

OK. let's outlaw the NEA. That teachers union has done far more to hinder and disturb actual learning than any amount of speech by actual students. All in the interest of their own greed.

because.. (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230276)

...how could the school have thought they had the right to punish her for that in the first place?

Probably the same reasoning they used when thinking it was ok to spy on students and their families with school-issued laptops [slashdot.org] ...a severe God complex.

Showing a woman's chest on TV (5, Insightful)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230282)

If that sounds like a trite platitude, consider how few people in the U.S. seem to question the rule that you can show a man's chest on television but not a woman's chest.

It's even more ridiculous than that. In 1999, Lil' Kim went to the MYV video music awards with one breast hanging out. She covered her nipple with a pasty and all was well. So breasts are allowed, but showing a woman's nipple turns it from a normal (ok, maybe slightly more-than-normal) show of skin into "OMG!!! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!"

In addition, we've gotten to the point that we (as a society) can't seem to see a woman's breast as anything other than a sexual object. If a woman breastfeeds her child in public, she risks being told to cover up her breasts because someone doesn't get that her breast isn't being used in a sexual manner but is being used to feed her child. She might even be told to take it to the bathroom. As if anyone really would like to eat their meal sitting atop a toilet! But breasts are involved so therefore someone, somewhere might see this as sexual and therefore we must push them out of sight entirely.

I often imagine a world where women are free to go topless whenever they want. Yes, a lot of guys likely just started drooling, but really think about it for a second. After a few weeks of that, seeing a topless woman would be just a normal part of life. It would be like seeing a woman's leg: Yes, a guy might be attracted to that piece of her anatomy, but it wouldn't cause him to go into a frenzy. Of course, the THINK OF THE CHILDREN crowd would eventually move on to another body part, calling kids seeing that as inherently harmful and thus required to be hidden from view at all possible times.

Re:Showing a woman's chest on TV (3, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230372)

It's even more ridiculous than that.

By saying that it's ok for men to be seen topless but not women implies that men are unable to control themselves, while women are. That's a double-dose of sexism - women's bodies are shameful and must be covered up, while men are brutish and incapable of controlling themselves.

Re:Showing a woman's chest on TV (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230386)

Answer: it's considered vulgar. Vulgarity varies from place to place, and community standards set the standards. Seriously, there is a ton of law about this, have you never heard of it? From your post, it sounds like you're totally unaware of this and are approaching the subject with a "21st century know-nothing" perspective.

Not a free speech issue (0, Troll)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230314)

The problem is not one of free speech rights, but of a culture that promotes subservience to authority. There are those who want to blame public schools, as if it were some government conspiracy of indoctrination, but those very people would drill the same values into their children at home or at private schools. The schools reflect the culture of its community, and that community values football, Jesus, and doing what you're told.

We must establish a war mentality, draw sharp lines between the "real Americans" and those who value rational inquiry and the open society. It is too far gone for reconciliation to be possible, they will never come to see the error of their ways. I mean, they actually bugged the laptops of children to spy on them in their homes! The who kids accepted that... what kind of adults do you think they're going to become?

Re:Not a free speech issue (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230376)

> The who kids accepted that

I mean, the kids who accepted that. The who kids are alright.

Re:Not a free speech issue (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230380)

I mean, they actually bugged the laptops of children to spy on them in their homes! The who kids accepted that... what kind of adults do you think they're going to become?

If I followed the case correctly, then none of the kids accepted that. In fact it was discovered only because the principal showed a picture taken of the pupil to claim "inapprobriate behaviour". And now the school district is telling everyone they are so sorry that they didn't tell anyone about the remote webcam activation feature.

Because they're governing a population ... (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230334)

These laws, rules, and regulations are in place because they're governing a population, not individuals. When dealing with populations you have to work by statistics. Statistics show that people in certain age groups have attained certain capacities to function in our society. They are given rights and freedoms to meet the stereotypical capacities of people of that particular age, with rules and punishments for individuals who break the rules for persons of their age.

Why did we choose this age? Historically this is the age when persons seemed to achieve the ability comprehend their society, culture, and rules well enough to function as a member of the group. Why did a different culture choose a different age? Same reason. Why did one culture change to match another? Because of the same reason they were aware of the other culture - we are now becoming a single world culture. With communication happening instantly around the world (and into space!) and transportation to anywhere in the world taking less than a day the world is shrinking. Common rules between governing bodies have been developing, likely, for centuries.

But I feel I haven't directly answered your question.

What is the source of society's attitudes toward the free-speech rights of 17-year-olds?

Because we think that generally speaking people who have not reached the age of 18 are a bunch of emotionally charged twits who are more likely to spew angst filled hate than provide anything constructive. They're scientifically proven to be less in control of their own actions and easily swayed by their peers and civilization. Puberty is still wreaking havoc on their psychology and the people defining the rules are aware of the unstable nature of this group because they experienced it first hand.

Not by Accident (1)

himurabattousai (985656) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230340)

There are too many people that don't want anyone to have our God-given/Constitutionally-recognized (however you choose to see them) rights, period. They view rights like free speech as dangerous because such a right allows others to criticize them and possibly undermine their authority or whatever else it is they're afraid of. Since it's easier to condition young people to not claim those rights than it is to strip those rights from older people , who are already accustomed to exercising them, that's the route that has been taken.

That's why schools now have essentially the same authority over students that the parents do. In many ways, it's nothing more than an end-around that bypasses the First Amendment--and many others. Schools were transformed from a pure agent of the state into quasi-parental figures without losing their state-given powers of coercion.

Since there's no magical age at which people begin to think responsibly, schools have decided that allowing no differing thoughts of any kind is the way to go. And they can, because they have that power. Eventually, all of society will be like our schools; no one will know how life could be different because no one was ever allowed to taste the thrills, or responsibilities, of freedom.

This isn't that different from the adult world. (1)

adonoman (624929) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230342)

If I called my boss "the worst boss I've ever met" in a public forum, then I'd likely be fired, and no one would raise an eyebrow. The forum to make these kinds of complaints is not a public facebook page, but the principal's office, and failing that, the school board. If that fails, then it's time to go public - and at that point, facebook still isn't the right medium - you need to go to the press. That is, of course, assuming she has a real complaint, other than a vague "she's a terrible teacher".

Re:This isn't that different from the adult world. (3, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230502)

If you ask a teacher no medium is the correct medium to criticise a teacher.

In the principles office you'll get ignored or randomly punished for questioning their authority and being a malcontent.
The school board will ignore you or you'll get randomly punished for criticising a teacher in public rather than quietly in the principles office.
If you go to the papers you'll be ignored or get randomly punished for criticising a teacher in the newspapers rather than quietly in the principles office.

Teachers and school administrators aren't exactly known for being fair and just.
(except if you ask a school administrator or teacher that is)

Re:This isn't that different from the adult world. (3, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230636)

Yes, but your boss pays you. On the other hand, the students parents pay the principal/teachers.

Government is doing it (1)

Fished (574624) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230660)

If this were a private school, you'd be right. The student is free to go elsewhere. However, this is a public school, paid for with tax dollars, and numerous court rulings have found that such are at least in some respects agents of state. This is why school prayer, for example, is not allowed. Accordingly, this is a punitive government action taken against a citizen, without due process, for expressing an unfavorable view of a government functionary in a public forum. You could even mount a reasonable argument that publishing on Facebook is equivalent, in context, to "the press."

Blink.

How is the principal's action any better than Richard Nixon's enemy's list?

Undermining authority (1)

Orp (6583) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230362)

Pretty simple, really. In an authoritarian environment, if you undermine authority, authority will come down on you.

No lese majeste (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230398)

People, organisations, religions, philosophies, all of these should be used to the idea that they can be insulted by others without being able to stop them.

This also misses the point (2, Interesting)

calibre-not-output (1736770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230418)

Legal age affects several rights, like the right to vote, to drink, or to drive (though at a different age, it's the same principle).
But this has nothing to do with First Amendment rights. These belong to everyone. Even toddlers. Before you know how to speak, your speech is protected. Anything else is plain and simple bullshit.

I don't fancy anyone would deny a 17-year-old the right to speak at a rally, for example. How is this any different? Except, of course, for the fact that a school principal has no legal authority whatsoever over a student beyond what the contract with him or his parents (in the case of a minor) allows, and never in a situation where the student isn't under immediate care of the school. This whole thing is ridiculous.

Re:This also misses the point (1)

Courageous (228506) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230686)

Hmmm. If a toddler calls me a fuckhead, can I kick its ass? :-P

The answer is "no of course, not, but the parents have a responsibility to see to the good behavior of their child".

I recall a party I was at once, 20 years ago, where a chick gave me some stupid lip, and I turned to her man and said that if she kept going HE was going to get his ass kicked. He shuttled her outta there right quick. Bet he wasn't expecting that, eh. :-P

Anyway, above romping around aside, are you SURE that a child, enrolled in a school, doesn't have a special relationship with the school in the same way that an employee has with their work place? Certainly you realize that if this were a PRIVATE school, there would be no question that the school could terminate the contract? Not "suspension," but expulsion. The fact that it is a PUBLIC school of course suggests that all the restraints on government apply. But what a complicated situation.

I'm not professing to have a "right" answer here. The situation appears to be, to me, a rather muddy one.

Overall, however, I'm with the other poster who decries the slowly eroding nature of our Constitutional government.

Perhaps the actual problem is PUBLIC school in the first place.

C//

Origins of ignorance (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230426)

Obviously the principle went to public school... there we learn that it is our right to rail against anything and everything (rhetorically) before we learn to study the nature of the system in which we operate. Venting is a national past time, and the opportunity to do so has been greatly expanded by the web. (Thank you Slashdot!)

Apparently this principle runs a model school because he has enough time to find and suspend a student for criticizing one of his teachers. No need to look into the merits of the argument, the politeness of the presentation or the ramifications of his own decision. I think any student who implicitly acknowledges the limits of their experience by qualifying the scope criticism (e.g. "the worst teacher I've ever met") deserves accolades for being both polite and self aware. This principle could take lessons from the student.

How would I fix this situation. Send the for training as a mediator, demote the principle and investigate the allegations of incompetence on the part of the teacher.

Seems like a double standard... (1)

Fished (574624) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230428)

Maybe I'm missing something... but public schools can't have public prayer (in most cases--there are exceptions) because that would be government "establishment" of religion. Yet they're allowed to do other things that government is forbidden to do on grounds that they're in loco parentis--like radically restricting student's freedom of speech, against their real parents wishes. I understand that the processes and procedures that one would follow with adults are not necessarily appropriate to schools (I have four children, okay?) but it seems like the application of the bill of rights and the fourteenth amendment is rather selective--as if we as a society are trying to have it both ways.

One of the things I observed a number of years back, while taking a course (for my B.A. in Philosophy/Religious Studies concentration) called Religious Freedom and the Law was that most of the modern conflict over the Bill of Rights comes up as we see government involved in things that simply were not part of Government's mandate when the Bill of Rights was written. In 1789, there was no public education to speak of. Unfortunately, government run education has become a place in which children are "socialized" with little regard for the wishes of their parents, especially when those parents are an ethnic or religious minority. Simply put, "civic virtue" is only "virtue" for the "civic"--for the insiders and the establishment. Public schooling is, by its very nature, an assault on freedom.

This to me is one of the best arguments for vouchers--not that children will necessarily get a better education, but people of modest income will be able to get an education that reflects their values and beliefs rather than the beliefs and values of the establishment. If you say, "but I don't like the choices some people will make, so let's keep the current system!" you're kind of proving my point.

Re:Seems like a double standard... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230510)

Schools can be restricted from having public prayer because schools do not have the right to free speech. Free speech is given to people, not to schools. There is no double standard, you're just an idiot.

Re:Seems like a double standard... (1)

coats (1068) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230632)

In 1789, there was no public education to speak of. Unfortunately, government run education has become a place in which children are "socialized" with little regard for the wishes of their parents, especially when those parents are an ethnic or religious minority...

Actually, of you study nineteenth century history you will find that public schools were introduced as an anti-Catholic/anti-immigrant measure, as a place where "undesirable" culture could be conditioned out of the younger generation.

Re:Seems like a double standard... (1)

Fished (574624) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230770)

I was aware of this (and other issues with the roots of public education) but didn't want to go there. The truth is that the system has always been corrupt.

Teacher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230452)

As a teacher, it is best to suspend these kids. From the outside it appears harmless. But inside the building, these things boil over because the people involvedd are actually together. Facebook and blogs are done at a distance; but confronting the content of those writings takes place at school in the form of knives, yelling and disruption, fighting, and in our inner city also gang payback, destroyed property and rape.

As teachers, we have enough crazy people and nutty kids go bonkers and violent during the day, without having to pile on more tension from trash written at home. The judge is clueless and so is anyone that disagrees.

How did we get here? (1, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230460)

This is what happens when you have socialized education, rather than a competitive market where parents are customers, rather than consumers of a limited good (consumer and customer are not the same social standing). If education were run more like a business, the schools would actually be afraid of overreaching against parental authority because the parents would be the ones writing the checks that keep the school afloat.

Of course, since parental authority is meaningless to the public schools aside from when it means parental responsibility (more specifically, culpability), they feel perfectly free to take the legal equivalent of a sledgehammer to their children and teens.

Re: Suspension of Disbelief (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230462)

Since the parent government of the schools thinks they can suppress dissension by labeling people "terrorists", the schools think they can do the same by extension.

Re: Suspension of Disbelief (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230648)

Beware, you could get suspended in your school for posting as AC in slashdot, thats just the next step... and ok, if well most AC comments on slashdot somewhat deserve suspension or jail, this one in particular don't.

Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230468)

That was painful to read – here's a summary:
  • Student creates a Facebook group calling one of her teachers "the worst teacher I've ever met". Gets suspended by principal with a permanent record. ACLU steps in (First Amendment blah blah). Case goes to court. Judge orders.
  • This case was clearly in student's favour, no threat of violence etc
  • Rant about judges being inconsistent in rulings. Choice quote: "Judges are not like doctors who look at a mammogram, and draw on experience that the general public does not have As such they're acting more like referees (who make a decision so that the game -- or, in this case, society -- can move on) than true "experts"."
  • Case is really about attitudes towards age changing. Lots of countries put majority age at 18. We shouldn't deny rights to 17 year olds when we allow 25 year olds to have them.
  • Teenage is a modern conception of age. Suspects because education going on for longer, but does not detract from the fact that "natural" age of maturity has remained the same.

Ok, now carry on.

They're all the same. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230512)

Judges are not like doctors who look at a mammogram,

At first glance, they all think the same thing: "Tits! Awesome!"
Why in the hell would you show a judge a mammogram anyway?

What didn't happen (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230542)

The tag of "rant" is correct. "Rambling" would have been correct, too.

I do note that a lot of the "evidence" put forth here is actually simply assertions:

... because if you put 10 judges in separate rooms and ask them how they would rule on the case, you could get 10 different, mutually contradictory answers.

That's an amusing argument; suggesting that your argument is correct because, if something that didn't happen would have happened, it would have proved it.

Repeated many times, e.g.,

... If different judges had been randomly assigned to J.S.'s case and Evans's case, then it might have been J.S. who won and Evans who lost.

"Teenager" is a 20th century invention (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230588)

The idea of a teenager didn't even exist until the 20th century. Before that, you were either a child or an adult. There wasn't this artificial in-between state. I have no idea why the concept seemed to pop out of nowhere, but I would love to know.

In any case, the concept of the teenager has been very damaging to our society. Since we have allowed adults to act like children...no, worse, expected and told them to act like children, many adults decide to continue acting like children even as they get older. People in their 20s and even 30s continue to seek out childish pleasures, simple thrills with no meaningful purpose requiring no significant degree of work or even, *gasp*, responsibility. And why shouldn't they act like this? They became adults, but learned they could still act like children. If they could act that way at 15, 16, 17, why can't they continue it to 25, 26, 27? So they do.

So even worse than denying young adults a role in society, we're teaching them that it's OK to continue to have no role in society even as they grow older. Denying adults under 18 their proper rights and appropriate respect harms us all.

Who Does The Parenting? (4, Insightful)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230602)

Not that I, in any way, think it's right we've ended up in this situation, nor that the conclusion is right. For the sake of providing an alternative perspective, however...

"And where does this attitude towards minors come from?"

Under the legal age of consent, minors are considered a group that require additional guidance: greater praise to encourage positive actions, protecting from greater long term consequences of negative actions, more immediate short term consequences for those actions.

Under that system, it's generally considered a parent's responsibility to discipline.

Unfortunately, the common belief is that a hell of a lot of parents don't bother. They've got other things to do, are absent, would rather be the kids' friends, had kids whilst kids themselves and never learned the lessons they need to teach, a whole slew of reasons.

The common belief holds that they tend to dump pretty much the entire responsibility for parenting on a school system that has to deal with the consequences of that lack of parenting every day.

Given they've had both the responsibility and consequences dumped on them, for the entirety of raising a child, time and again... and they know the parents often won't back them when it becomes the parents' responsibility in situations that overlap... how surprising is it that issues keep coming up where they overreach what would ever be acceptable in a world where every parent acted like a parent?

I'm not saying it's right. As is always joked, there are tougher requirements on having a beer or driving a car than there are on becoming a parent. It's not acceptable that many parents do a terrible job of raising their kids. It's not acceptable that responsibility and consequences are dumped on the school system. It's not acceptable that some parents acting so poorly leads to some teachers generalizing for all parents and overreaching in all cases. It's not acceptable that we value education as poorly as we do, have class sizes as large as we do, and create a situation where teachers don't have time to genuinely assess each case.

It's wrong in every way. But the only way you stand any chance of fixing something is to understand the whole broken system and everything that needs fixing... rather than just finger pointing at one symptom at the end of the chain and declaring that it is wrong. Sadly, as a society, we much prefer that fingerpointing and scapegoating to actually facing tough truths. So, I imagine these teachers will get sued, we'll all feel very righteous, then wonder why it's continued to get worse next year.

Coming soon to a theater near you: (1)

rtobyr (846578) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230616)

Maybe next, some teenager can sue movie theaters for charging 13 year olds "Adult" prices when they're not legally adults until they're 18. That always bugged the heck out of me.

Property (1)

evil_aar0n (1001515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230622)

The bigger problem is that kids are considered "property", or "wards" of their parents, and have no rights, themselves, until they reach the age of majority. However, that's wrong. Children under the age of 18 are still considered citizens and the courts have rules that they do, in fact, have rights unto their own, including the right not to be searched without a warrant, and the right to free speech.

This particular case is just an example of a power-tripping ego-centric principal who thinks he can get away with it because he's The Man. That the courts have slapped him down is just as it should be. That it happened in the first place is just testament to the fact that the district hired the wrong person in the first place. Will they learn their lesson? One would hope. Will other district's learn from this district's lesson? Probably not.

Not in front of the children (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31230658)

Those interested in a cross cultural exploration of "protecting" children (admittedly the flip side of this issue) should check out the book Not In Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth by Marjorie Heins

Honestly... (1)

Nov Voc (1619289) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230666)

I'm tired of school administrations being so petty that they think a student disliking them is a reason to suspend or otherwise "punish" students. It's one thing to punish someone for interrupting class by insulting a teacher outright, but entirely different and downright immature to say that they are not entitled to express themselves at home. Between this and the recent spying laptops scandal, whatever happened to being "for the children", rather than "anything so the f#!kers sit still in class"? If they're so worried about not being liked, why punish them arbitrarily?

I certainly hope they get lawyer fees repaid, because this behavior is outright unacceptable. Having the power to unilaterally grant or deny education to these kids based on whether or not they "like" you, is power that is apparently being abused. The "Vegan" sweater case is a nice example, but I'd imagine most of you TL;DR'd the hybrid TFA/summary, so here's the link: http://libertarianrock.com/1999/09/vegan-student-may-seek-new-judge/ [libertarianrock.com]

I fear a world where education is taken or given away on the whims of a single official.

Insulation from Consequences (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230750)

The principal's legal bills will be paid by the taxpayers. He is insulated from the consequences of his actions.

That SOB hit the girl (whose care he was entrusted with) where it hurts--he kicked her out of her AP classes.

If ever anybody deserved microscopic public scrutiny of his personal life . . .

This is a big deal? (1)

Eggbloke (1698408) | more than 4 years ago | (#31230766)

The same thing happened to my friend recently and he was suspended for a week. No one ever thought about challenging it and my friend just took it as a free holiday.
At the time I considered that it was outside of the schools jurisdiction and they should have informed the police instead but obviously for the student a week off school is far better than police involvement.
If they had asked politely I'm sure he would have taken the page down but instead they choose to blow it out of proportion and suspend him for a week which can only make him more hostile towards them.
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