Stop Cyberbullying Your Masters!

As further evidence that "cyberbullying" (with cyber-stalking close behind) has become the "disorderly conduct" of the online world—an all-purpose legal bludgeon with which to thump people in the kidneys when the authorities don't like what they're doing but can't find a real crime about which to complain—three San Francisco high school seniors were suspended for saying mean things about their teachers in Tumblr posts. They were reinstated only after civil liberties groups stepped in to remind school officials that there are actual limits to their power, and lawyers with pro bono time on their hands willing to make those limits stick. According to the ACLU of Northern California:

In March, after students at a San Francisco high school posted parodies and irreverent memes from their home computers about teachers and school administrators on a Tumblr blog (“Teaches Pink Floyd for 3 Weeks; Makes Final Project Due In 3 Days”; “Nags Student Govt About Being On Task; Lags On Everything”), the principal dragged three students she suspected of creating the blog posts into her office and interrogated them at length.  (The blog has since been taken down.)  The principal then immediately suspended the students for three days, accusing them of bullying and disrupting school activities.  The students were also barred from attending a school dance and prom, and even from walking with their classmates at graduation.  In addition, the principal did not provide the students with an opportunity to resolve the concerns through a restorative justice approach prior to imposing the punishments, which disregards the School District’s prioritization of restorative justice as an alternative, when possible, to suspension and expulsion.

Note that, as almost always seems to be the case in these electron-fueled days, the kids didn't even use school time or resources. They logged into their Tumblr accounts at home, after hours. Amateurs. In my day, we circulated obscene newsletters in class after running them off on school mimeograph machines.

"We absolutely recognize and value our students’ right to free speech. We also recognize that we need to educate them about responsible speech," Gentle Blythe, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Unified School District, told California Watch. "As soon as the district was notified of the school administration’s action, we responded. Part of having authority means recognizing that if you make a mistake you need to correct it."

And a big part of having authority is backpedaling when the ACLU and the Asian Law Caucus come calling. With the school district under scrutiny, the George Washington High School students were reinstated after missing three oh-so-important days of school.

Ever a state to run with the cool kids, California has a specific law giving school officials the power to deal with the dread scourge of cyberbullying -- though it doesn't specify that the target of the bullying must be those delicate flowers employed by the education establishment.

Update: While we're discussing delicate flowers, let's have a shout-out for the tough Renton, Washington, police officials who got their knickers in a bind over mocking online videos created by some of their own.

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  • PaganPriestess||

    First?

  • rho||

    What We Wanted To Teach: "responsible speech".

    What We Actually Taught: if you have power, use it.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Gentle Blythe

    Really? Really?

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Greatest school district "spokeswoman" name ever? Discuss.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Well, her surname seems correct.

    Blithe: Showing a casual and cheerful indifference considered to be callous or improper.

  • Paul.||

    San Francisco unified... she was probably "there" in the 60s.

  • ||

    "We absolutely recognize and value our students’ right to free speech. We also recognize that we need to educate them about responsible speech,"

    So...you educate them by punishing them for their free speech after school hours outside of school. Fuck you, asshole.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    That'll teach em to disrespect authority.

  • ||

    What I don't get is why the kids or their parents tolerate it. If a teacher or administrator had even dreamed of bothering me about something I did outside of school and/or unrelated to school, my response would have been "mind your own god damn business", and if they had tried to punish me for it, my parents would have been in their office in about 3 seconds berating the shit out of them.

  • John||

    Because the parents have apparently become sheep as well. And of course don't forget it is awfully hard to fight city hall, especially if you are poor. The school can always call CPS on those parents who don't seem to be interested in their children' education.

  • ||

    Is that the case, though? One of the endless whines from teachers you always hear is that parents will jump all over them if they even give their kid a bad grade. Who is the most full of shit, I wonder?

  • John||

    That is a good point. There could be another angle. Maybe these are yuppie kids whose parents are the hyper competitive types and will roll over for anything to keep it from going on little snowflakes record and keeping her out of Berkley.

    I can't figure it out to be honest. If it were my kid, I would be pretty angry.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    You're both right. IME with my kid's schools. there are a very small contingent of the hyperactive parents who freak out over everything. The rest of the parents just consider school to be free day care.

  • ||

    There you go thinking people have rights again. Seriously, Epi, I am disappoint.

  • Evil Otto||

    I didn't know libertarians thought there was a right to an education.

  • ||

    Damn, Tulpa. Do you teach a course on missing the point?

  • ||

    As a matter of fact, Professor Pomeranian does teach Spurious Argument 101.

  • Fluffy||

    You don't have a right to an education paid for by the public, in my view, but as soon as the government takes it upon itself to offer that benefit, it can't withhold it or condition it on your waiver of your free speech rights.

  • Paul.||

    You don't have a right to an education paid for by the public, in my view, but as soon as the government takes it upon itself to offer that benefit, it can't withhold it or condition it on your waiver of your free speech rights.

    This. You can't compel me to join a club, then hold me to the bylaws of the club that I'm forced to join.

  • Zeb||

    How fucking spineless are these parents? Or maybe they are happy to have the school take over raising their children for them. The level of authority that schools have over kids while they are in school is bad enough.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    Around these parts many of the parents drop their kids at school so they don't have to deal with them. They don't care if the kid actually learns anything.

  • nicole||

    What I don't get is why the kids or their parents tolerate it.

    No, me neither...I remember being in middle school and finding out for the first time that someone had been suspended from school for being arrested outside of school for something totally unrelated to school, and there was just no way that made sense to me.

    But by the time my bro was in middle school and high school (he was the "bad" one), my parents had no interest in fighting most of it, largely because they didn't really see much problem with him missing school. Suspended? Well, that's a couple days fewer they have to screw you, right? He was never the scholarly type so I don't think this really hurt him, but it's probably not so hot for those Berkeley-bound snowflakes John mentions.

  • Tonio||

    Fear of reprisals, Epi?

  • ||

    Don't make me suspend you, Tonio.

  • Evil Otto||

    They're actually punishing the parents, methinks.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    We also recognize that we need to educate them about responsible speech

    The only "responsible speech" is the kind that doesn't involve defamation or immediate harm to the public (inciting violence, panic). Everything else is fair game.

  • Abdul||

    They're free.

    For now.

    When one of those teachers jumps off a bridge, we know a who to target for an old-fashinoned hysterical media witch hunt.

  • ||

    And if one of the teachers is gay or a racial minority, hello hate crime prosecution.

  • John||

    Is this the product of Gen X and Gen Y never growing up? I bet the teachers in question are in their 20s and 30s. And I bet they grew up being told what special snowflakes they were. Given that, is it any wonder that they are in fact less mature than their students? They can't take being made fun of by a bunch of high school students? They really do seem to have the maturity level of 9th graders.

  • rho||

    The self-entitled and humourless span many, many generations.

  • Evil Otto||

    Right, because back in the 1950s teachers were totally cool with kids making fun of them. Especially the nuns.

    And it's hard to teach a high school class when no one respects you. Obviously reacting to it in a dictatorial manner makes things worse.

  • Fluffy||

    And it's hard to teach a high school class when no one respects you.

    If your definition of "respect" is "nobody complains about or makes fun of the teacher outside of school" then no high school teacher has been respected, ever.

  • JEP||

    I had a teacher who liked to go on little power trips and started picking on a student who didn't deserve it. I got in the way and started to subtly mock the teacher.

    It ended with the teacher throwing me out of his class. Wouldn't be the last time either.

    It happened again when this girl was trying to trying to get some points back on a test, and he told her to get on her knees and ask for them back. I went off.

  • John||

    I am sure the nuns were really concerned about what their students were saying about them at home there Tulpa. And no one will respect you if you spend your life being a petty, whining tyrant.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Especially the nuns.

    The Sisters didn't whine about bullying or stalking. They took a ruler to your hands or ass and praised Jesus while they were doing it. Meanwhile, your peers were quietly laughing at your misfortune and glad that it wasn't them. But I'm pretty sure they didn't care what you said about them outside of school.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Open disrespect was not tolerated in my day, but none of my teachers ever whined that they were being "bullied". They all understood well enough that they were mocked behind their backs (even the best behaved class usually has a couple of shitheads in it) but this troubled them no more than the blowing of the wind.

    Of course, they might have known what the word "bullied" means, in sharp contrast to today's teachers.

  • ||

    We also recognize that we need to educate them about responsible speech

    Fuck these cunts.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Apparently you missed that day in class, A.

  • ||

    Yes, it's very irresponsible of me to use the word cunt according to certain humorless cunt reason commenter. Apparently it ruins the reputation of all libertarians.

  • T||

    Hey! You can't ruin my reputation! That's my job, and in the Obama econopmy, I'm lucky to have it!

  • Citizen Nothing||

    See, this is why nobody takes libertarians seriously.

  • ||

    This is very true. Libertarians, as a whole, became libertarians because of a yearning to belong, to fit in, to play nicely together, and there are no other groups where this sort of idyllic interaction is possible.

  • Zeb||

    Well, kids should be educated about responsible speech. "You are responsible for what you say" should about do it.

  • John Thacker||

    Ah, just like how privacy laws get used, here bullying laws get used to protect the powerful.

  • John||

    How can someone in official authority get "bullied"? Newspeak is not just for governments. I had a particularly pathetic boss once call me a "bully". No shit. Dude, you are the one in charge, how exactly am I bullying you? he didn't like that question very much.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I once wrote a snarky column about the pathetic "state of the state" address just given by the governor (who was a favorite of the front office). My editor, I shit you not, said I was unfairly "picking" on the governor.
    But to their credit, it was one of only two columns my masters ever killed outright.

  • Zeb||

    "Bullying" seems to be the latest trendy word which is losing all real meaning by being applied where it is not appropriate.

    Real bullying, like beating people up and stealing their lunch money, is a bad thing. But those things are already against the law. No new laws are needed. Hurting someone's feelings should not be a crime. What the fuck ever happened to "sticks and stones..."?

  • Evil Otto||

    I blame Aubrey O'Day on Celebrity Apprentice.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    She's lucky someone hasn't strangled her yet. If ever there was a special snowflake...

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    What the fuck ever happened to "sticks and stones..."?

    You're probably one of those bullying bastards aren't you Zeb? Don't you understand that every mean word is literally like a punch in the gut? Psychological pain is JUST LIKE physical pain. You sicko.

  • Zeb||

    Somehow I made it through school without bullying or being bullied or feeling I needed to belong to a particular clique or feeling like I was uncool, or feeling like I was one of the cool kids. Weird.

  • Scarcity||

    Zoloft FTW

  • ||

    Asshats like these abound in public schools. They have no illusions about educating kids; they're there to teach kids to respect authority. Students making fun of a teacher undermines that, so the little bastards have be taught a lesson. It's for their own good, you know.

  • John||

    Teaching someone something is hard. Beating them into submission in contrast...

  • T||

    I think this explains the PE teachers I had in Catholic school.

  • Evil Otto||

    If this were a private school there would be no prob, correct?

  • John||

    They would still be humorless asshats. It just wouldn't be a legal issue.

  • Evil Otto||

    Indeed, it would be a competitive issue for the school. As it should be.

  • John||

    If we had universal school choice, it would be a competitive issue for the school here.

  • ||

    I'm totally in love with this Tuccille guy (or gal?)

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    We discovered yesterday that he has some kind of three way relationship going on with his wife and his son's pediatrician. We're not quite sure who the son belongs to or how the two dogs are divided up.

  • John||

    Kristen, are you going to the Stossell thing tonight? My wife and I are. She has a terrible crush on Stossell. If you are, say hello.

  • ||

    Newp - I have flyball class with my pooch. As much as I enjoy being a political pariah libertarian, spending time with my dog is better :)

    Have fun!

  • John||

    What kind of dog? And yeah, we will have a sad neglected retriever when we get home.

  • ||

    Pug, believe it or not (he's obsessed with tennis balls and he's a helluva retriever)

  • John||

    LOL/ I have a first class gun dog. A Chesapeake Bay Retriever. And she is a fair to midland retriever. She retrieves until she gets tired. They are very strong willed dogs Chessies.

  • ||

    When we used to go to the dog park, most of the Labs and other sporting dogs had no interest in chasing the ball. Which was good, because my dog is not interested in sharing. We had to stop going to the dog park, though, after a couple of scuffles with dogs that were interested in chasing the ball.

    Anyways, I tell people I got the Sport Model Pug.

  • John||

    The canine equivalent of the turbo charged Fiat 500.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    In my day, we circulated obscene newsletters in class after running them off on school mimeograph machines.

    Heads up people! Old man coming through.

  • Father Jack||

    Feck off, Sparky! Drink! Arse! Girls!

  • ||

    i've said it before, i'll say it again, cyberbullying laws in my state and many others are blatantly unconstitutional and they are a result of the war on domestic violence, which affects actual innocents more than the war on drugs and is grossly erosive of rights, to include free speech rights

    good to see reason finally catching on to this because it's been going on a while

    i had a case the other day where a (pro tem) judge issued an order prohibiting respondent (ex-boyfriend) from posting anything on the internet/social network that mocked or belittled his girlfriend (the petitioner)

    BLATANTLY unconstitutional. and a judge signed the order!

  • BakedPenguin||

    People who are in possession of drugs but haven't violated anyone's rights are innocent.

  • ||

    A judge signed it? Why, that is just shocking.

  • ||

    and unlike cops, judges have absolute immunity

    note this is not a complex legal issue, it's BLATANTLY unconstitutional

    you cannot issue an order that makes it a crime for a person to make disparaging comments bout person X

    you can prohibit them from contacting person X

    huge difference

  • Evil Otto||

    Is the court being contemptible a defense against contempt of court?

  • ||

    lol

    it would actually technically be a mandatory DV arrest (which i wouldn't make because it's blatantly illegal)

    however, the issue she called us with was ANOTHER provision of the order which said that our agency was required to accompany her to the dad's house (respondent) where we were to assist in making him turn over the kid (she was claiming custodial interference and had convinced the judge to issue the order)

    that's also BLATANTLY illegal

    the only times we remove kids from a parent are when they are in imminent danger (something i've had to do less than 5 times in 20 yrs. it's a high threshold), like in the middle of a meth lab, or where there are dangerous structural issues with the house such that it could collapse after a fire, etc.

    the only other time we remove a kid is with a habeas corpus order, and this wasn't it.

    it was a fucking modification of a protective order and it was a blatantly illegal order.

    and if we had enforced it, and something happened, like he resisted and he got hurt etc. he would OWN a massive lawsuit and rightly so

    i suspect this was some traffic judge or something (and note i don't even think judges technically need a law degree iirc) who was pro tem'ping

    i can understand not knowing the law about removing a kid from a home, but not knowing the 1st amendment?

    i told her i wouldn't and couldn't enforce the order. she got pissed. wanted to talk to my sgt. my sgt. told her the same thing.

  • ||

    Well at least your Sgt. backed you up.

  • califernian||

    Public school is a prison. Get your kids out asap.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    The two key points I take away from this are:

    1. Fuck public schools.
    2. Don't say a damned thing to school administrators except "call my parents."
    3....

    The three key points I take away from this are:
    1. Fuck public schools.
    2. Don't say a damned thing to school administrators except "call my parents."
    3. Fuck Gentle Blythe.
    4....

    The four key points I take away from this are:
    1. Fuck public schools.
    2. Don't say a damned thing to school administrators except "call my parents."
    3. Fuck Gentle Blythe.
    4. lrn2vpn

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    The two key points I take away from this are:

    1. Fuck public schools.
    2. Don't say a damned thing to school administrators except "call my parents."
    3....

    The three key points I take away from this are:
    1. Fuck public schools.
    2. Don't say a damned thing to school administrators except "call my parents."
    3. Fuck Gentle Blythe.
    4....

    The four key points I take away from this are:
    1. Fuck public schools.
    2. Don't say a damned thing to school administrators except "call my parents."
    3. Fuck Gentle Blythe.
    4. lrn2vpn

  • Paul.||

    4. lrn2vpn

    That which is transmitted publicly can be read by the public.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    So? It can be read by the public but the public has no feasible way of tracking the source.

  • ||

    An alternate spelling for 'school official' would be 'petty tyrant'. On any day of the year, in any year you choose to look at, there is shit just like this going on in some school somewhere in the country.

    My wife continually encourages me to teach because she says I have a knack for it. I am certain that a week after starting I would end up fired, in jail, or both. I keep telling her that teaching kids to think for themselves is a crime on par with treason, but she doesnt get it.

    Go ahead, someone make a pedophile joke.

  • ||

    the problem with bullying laws is - assault, robbery, etc. are already illegal

    there is no crime of "bullying" that is not already covered by existing criminal law, which we already have too much of

    otoh, some of these bullying laws instead are overbroad and are unconstitutional

    it's a kneejerk, let's pass a law solution to something that is a "problem" but the cure won't work and is worse than the disease

    schools also generally don't recognize the right to self defense

    iow, even if it is clear that student A punched student B in self defense, they will still often punish both

    they have called us (police before) when they want police action, and we explain to them that it's not a crime to punch somebody in self defense regardless of their policy

    another admin wanted two kids arrested for "fighting". they had agreed to duke it out. WA state has no fighting in public law (our disorderly conduct statute does not cover it). they had commited no crime.

    my favorite school admin case was the ASSistant principle who thought we should arrest one of his students for ARSON

    the facts were , the kid was in an assembly. big darkened auditorium. kid had a lighter, that he had fiddled with (not hard to do), so that the flame shot up about 4 inches when you lit it.

    he did this in the middle of the assembly. the kids thought it was funny.

  • ||

    it wasn't even reckless endagerment, let alone arson, because the flame wasn't big enough where people thought it would be a fire and stampede out the building, causing a risk of trampling etc. (kind of like the falsely yelling fire example)

    iow, he was just being an idiot and the school had every right to punish him, but he REALLY wanted us to arrest him for ARSON

    arson?

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