"Blog Bullies" Busted in Bad-Word Brouhaha (Advanced Students Edition)

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Reader ChicagoTom sends along this tale of blogging gone wild from the Windy City:

Three male students at Taft High School—seventh- and eighth-graders in an Advanced Placement program—were disciplined Wednesday after obscene and threatening remarks were posted about Taft staff on a Web log that reportedly had a teacher in tears when discovered this week.

The Chicago Sun-Times ran some redacted versions of the blog posts:

Posted Nov. 3
"She'll see oh yes, there will be blood, well no that's just this damn pen that exploded, and no, I won't kill her … yet … however … Ms. ——'s neck will be … slit like a …… chicken! Now…WHO DO I HAVE TO KILL BESIDES… MS. ——!!

SHE'S SOO SHORT!!!!!

Posted Nov. 23
"….Yes, Ms. —, she [obscene act deleted], literally I mean what do you think she does in that secret little back room of hers"

The comments were posted at online community Xanga and the students have been suspended. The legal issues surrounding this sort of thing are pretty interesting. As the Sun-Times notes, this stuff was done off-site and–any sort of credible threats of violence aside–there's a precedent to let it go:

Twenty years ago, a judge in Maine ruled that school officials had no right to punish a student who extended his middle finger to a teacher at a restaurant parking lot outside school hours.

More here.

In other student-related news, Eric Berlin sends along this story from Kansas in which a student was initially suspended for speaking Spanish at lunchtime.

NEXT: Dr. Condi and Ms. Rice

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  1. Well, 20 years ago was pre-Columbine, and probably pre-zero tolerance rules. As the rest of the article states, Xanga.com’s usage policy does not allow these kinds of statements, anyway. One troubling thing to me is that the article protrays most of the teachers as believing that any kind of hurtful speech should not receive First Amendment protection.

    You would think that kids in an advanced placement program would know better–or at least read the usage policy of the site they are posting on. Oh, well.

  2. Those kids aren’t going to get their pudding. Whether they eat their meat or not.

    All in all you’re just a-
    -nother exploded pen in the chicken.

  3. In my mind, giving the finger to a teacher in the parking lot is a little different than threatening to slit someone’s throat, even though both might be protected. I’m curious, what *is* the legal status of speach threatening to kill someone? I mean, would it really be possible for someone to publish (verbally or in writing) death threats to someone every day for months or years, and never face any restraint? Where is the line between “it’s just an idle threat, you can’t punish someone for just saying something” and “Every day for a month he said he would kill him, and then he did. Well duh, why didn’t we do anything?”

  4. You hear of these abuses by the schools with depressing regularity. They are doing a terrible disservice to the kids and to all of us by imparting the message that speech that is unpopular with the authorities may be punished.

  5. What is it about schools that arouses such antipathy in students?
    Two words: compulsory attendance.

  6. the spanish at lunchtime is ridiculous.

    absurd.

    fucking koo-koo.

    “it’s not mexico, it’s not germany” (paraphrased) – huh?

    is she like haunted by the ghost of maximilian?

    can’t wait to hear someone defend this…

    Rick: i can see that you, too, are shocked! SHOCKED to find that the absolute power given to the schools gets abused. now if we only had the right people there (fade out with evil laughter, evil petting zoo, and noam chomsky) 🙂

  7. Well, it seems pretty reasonable that written death threats are grounds for suspension, Columbine or otherwise. The school has to have some way of setting standards for behavior. The writing is protected only insofar as the kids don’t have to go to jail. Last I checked, suspension from school is not considered an infringement on any personal liberties.

  8. Dude,

    That judge 20 years ago was a retard. A school can punish anyone that attends it for anything. Hell, a little while ago, on this very site we had something to the effect of a school punishing a student for having gay parents.

    Here is the deal. You have the right to attend or not to attend a school. The school has the right to enforce the rules it sees fit.

    Somewhere in there the supply and demand thing kicks in and the better the school, the more demanding rules it gets to have.

    Ultimately the PARENTS have the all the power as they should. They get to send their kids to a school with rules that they like. Thus the schools that please the parents flourish.

    That is the libertarian way. That is the common sense way. If you don’t see that you are a communist.

    Well not really, but you get my point. (hey it is past my bedtime).

  9. Mac, kind of beat me to the general point I was making.

  10. Further, I thought the liberal dogma, as inculcated in students by all those (mostly) liberal teachers, was supposed to eradicate the tendency to violence from society.
    Could they have got it ass-backwards?

  11. I don’t think I’ve ever read the usage policy of a site. Stock to common rules of decorum and you should be fine. Of course, most high school kids don’t know them.

    As for the the kids suspended for speaking Spanish, let me play devil’s advocate and say this would be justified if the teacher reasonably thought the kid was using Spanish as a way to mask insults or threats. It is, of course, rude to use a foreign langauge as a way to exclude present company. Somehow, I doubt that was the case here…likely just a teacher with a dislike of Spanish and an ill-restrained sense of authority.

  12. The bee in the britches of the teacher in the no-Spanish brou-haha can be summed up thusly:

    Respete mi autoridad!

    Apparently the educational system would collapse if a student were able to say “El profesor tiene un pene en su boca” without being punished.

  13. Or it could be that they are trying to teach English skills that will help them later in corporate America. And English immersion is the best way to go about it.

    On another note. It is against the UCMJ (uniformed code of military justice) to speak a foreign language while in uniform except in the course of duties (ie speaking to non American troops). This is largely ignored in the US Army and coincidentally they have lots of discipline problems, where the Marine Corps that does not ignore this problem has less.

    On the school issue, I would say it should be up to the school. My guess is that outside of Spanish classes the students that are made to adhere to English only would on average do better.

  14. Actually, kwais, it may be that a lack of proficient Spanish will hold you back in the future. I remember back in the 80’s some Texas judge made national headlines by telling a woman in court that if she didn’t teach her children English she was condemning them a lifteime as chambermaids and waiters. And that was true, back in the 80’s.

    Now an Anglo parent that fails to ram Spanish down his child’s throat is condemning him to a lifetime of frustrating job searches. Even in Minnesota every auto dealer and every bank puts up signs saying they have Spanish-speaking employees. You can feel free to use this as a jumping-off point to rail against immigration, but bitching about the weather isn’t going to change it. We live in a bilingual society now and the future belongs to the people who get it.

  15. And the student in question was fluent in English already. Dead elvis nailed it. Another authority figure drunk with power.

  16. They’re teaching skills needed by future corporate employees, all right. Like, always keep in mind that anything you say online may be Googled by the HR Nazis, and you can get Dooced.

  17. James –

    Please notice that your idea is to learn both. Knowing only Spanish in the US will most likely negatively affect you. Knowing only English in the US will not.

    I agree with your premise that knowing both is better for your oppurtunities than knowing only one, but don’t think there’s a need to have multiple langauges.

    For instance, the company that currently employees me has Spanish speaking individuals in the call centers for a variety of services we provide for large businesses & their employees. Having said that however, I don’t know anyone with a decent job in my company that wants to work in the call center.

  18. Twenty years ago, a judge in Maine ruled that school officials had no right to punish a student who extended his middle finger to a teacher at a restaurant parking lot outside school hours.

    LOL

  19. Six: these students aren’t currently employed by anyone and won’t be for five to ten years. Their career will stretch for thirty to forty years beyond that. Currently, bilingual persons are in demand primarily in sales and service positions, but that is currently. My point was that the language situation is very different now than it was twenty years ago and will be even more different twenty years from now.

    These students may be putting themselves at a disadvantage by not sufficiently “immersing” themselves in English, but they’re doing a great service to the Anglo kids at the school by immersing them in Spanish. Knowing only Spanish may not be much help to you right now, but I was arguing that knowing only English may not be much help to you in the future.

    The job of “teacher,” for example, is one that simply won’t be open to people who don’t speak both English and Spanish twenty years from now.

  20. “They’re teaching skills needed by future corporate employees, all right. Like, always keep in mind that anything you say online may be Googled by the HR Nazis, and you can get Dooced.”

    yeah, basically. “sit down and shut up” is always a good lesson to learn if you don’t want to have a “hard” life.

  21. Well, it seems pretty reasonable that written death threats are grounds for suspension, Columbine or otherwise.

    IANAL, but why should this be considered a “death threat” if the teachers were not the intended audience?

    The school has to have some way of setting standards for behavior.

    Outside of school hours and off school property?
    A school shouldn’t be able to control every moment of kids’ lives.

  22. Here is the deal. You have the right to attend or not to attend a school. The school has the right to enforce the rules it sees fit.

    Actually, unless your parents have the means and desire to arrange an alternative, you do NOT have the right to “not go” to school. That’s what the whole compulsory-attendance thing is about.

    I think James is right–we’re becoming a bilingual society, and those of us under 40 will almost certainly live to see a time where speaking only English, sans Spanish, puts you at a real disadvantage in America; people under 20 may see a time when speaking only English, sans Spanish, is a form of illiteracy.

    And I know the arguments for “let’s have the government publish in English only; if they come here it’s their responsibility to learn it.” On the other hand, that could soon (within a couple of generations) lead to a situation where the government speaks and writes in a language understood only by the country’s minority population, which is not conducive to a free society.

  23. The biggest problems with foreign language education in the US:

    1) We usually don’t start teaching languages until high school, sometimes middle school. The younger you start, the easier it is.

    2) We teach Spanish, French, and German at most high schools. Spanish is obviously useful for Americans. French still has its uses, but it’s nowhere near as useful as Spanish for most Americans. And German? Please. It doesn’t have nearly as many native speakers as Spanish or French, and just about every German knows English.

    Schools should be teaching kids Spanish from an early age, plus an elective chosen from French, Mandarin, Russian, or Arabic. These languages are all spoken as first or second languages by numerous people in numerous countries, many of them of great significance to the US. Russian and French might not be first languages for as many people as Spanish, Mandarin, or Arabic, but former French colonies and former Soviet Republics tend to have a lot of people who speak those languages. I would also suggest languages of the Indian sub-continent, but they all know English.

    I doubt this will turn around any time soon, alas. If we didn’t teach our kids Russian during the Cold War, I doubt we’ll teach our kids Arabic during the War on Terror. Which makes no sense at all.

    (And when I opine on what schools “should” be teaching, I’m not saying that I’m OK with public education. I’m saying that a sensibly run private school would adopt those policies. Or at least they would if I was the principle, hired voluntarily by the owners of the school, yadda yadda.)

  24. Lonewacko! Your country needs you.

  25. thoreau, I see foreign languages as a vanity for most HS students. Really, unless you’re doing something like working with immigrants/going into the foreign service/a few different service-industry type jobs, they’re just a vanity that you have to pad your college application with.. and then if you’re in a liberal arts program in college, you have to take them over again even if you’re unlikely to ever use them.

    Personally, I’d rather have those two years of Spanish in HS scratched.. I’d rather have taken AP calculus or perhaps AP biology… but there’s only so many hours in the school day, and if you HAVE to have a foreign language, it eats up hours you could use elsewhere.

  26. French has one other great virtue: If you ever need to flee the US and live in Switzerland, French will be most useful. Sure, the same could be said for German, but French has many more uses.

    I need to learn French. I admire the Swiss so much, and consider them my fallback if the US turns into a dictatorship. So I’d better start learning one of their langugages.

  27. Steven: or you could go my route of complete uselessness. In high school (which was 8th to 12th grade) I took five years of Latin and four years of Ancient Greek. Hard to get more useless than that.

  28. I need to learn French. I admire the Swiss so much, and consider them my fallback if the US turns into a dictatorship. So I’d better start learning one of their langugages.

    I decided to try teaching myself some French after finding a dirt-cheap copy of The Cat in the Hat Picture Dictionary in French and English in a used-book place. I also picked up a few volumes of Calvin et Hobbes when I was in Montreal.

    The French word for “eeeeeew!” is either “berk” or “beurk,” depending on which cartoon Calvin is in.

  29. Kids should learn sign language.
    It transcends spoken languages.

  30. The only language these kids understand is the language of the TASER!

  31. A co-worker of mine grew up under the wing of a Spanish speaking nanny. She soaked up the language, because she had no choice if she wanted to communicate with the woman who took care of her for 10 hours a day.

    She can still speak Spanish, though she’s had no need for a nanny for about 15 years. Young kids have an amazing ability to absorb languages, and KEEP them. That we often don’t start languages in public schools until the 9th grade is downright nonsensical. Even middle school is too late.

  32. Steven: or you could go my route of complete uselessness. In high school (which was 8th to 12th grade) I took five years of Latin and four years of Ancient Greek. Hard to get more useless than that.

    I dunno. I really wish I’d taken Latin instead of German. Latin gives you a good head start on the Romance languages, which includes both French and Spanish that have been recommended on this thread. I certainly had an easier time in Spanish after I’d taken a semester of Latin, and I hope I can teach myself more of both languages in the future.

  33. James –

    Maybe you’re right in 20 years things will be different with respect to common forms of communication needed in professional jobs; I’m not so sure. Predicting the future is a tough business.

    Having said that – pragmatically I agree that childern should learn more than one language and should do it as young as possible. And agree that Spanish would be the first one to learn inside the US.

    thoreau –

    Completely agree that French/German isn’t a language that Americans will need. My first child’s school had afterschool French, which most parents rightfully ignored. The new school (one closed and combined with a few others) has classes after school for Spanish. She’s been enrolled ever since.

  34. My plan, when I have kids, is simple: Spanish exposure from an early age. If at all feasible, an elementary school that includes Spanish in the curriculum. And Mandarin lessons on weekends.

    I know enough Spanish to get the ball rolling on the early childhood exposure, and there are lots of Spanish TV shows, books, DVDs, toys, songs, etc. with content for children. Harry Potter Y El Caliz De Fuego

    And I know that a lot of Chinese immigrants send their kids to special Chinese schools on weekends, to teach their kids Mandarin. Hopefully there will be a beginner version for my kids.

  35. I’ve took plenty of Latin. …and I don’t think it matters which language they take, but I think kids should take one. …and I don’t think it has so much to do with utility per se; the sensation of describing the same world in a different language, a different context, is educational in the most basic sense. Anyway, I think that’s what kids should do, but I don’t think it should be mandatory.

  36. Any votes here for Esperanto?

    I like mine with steamed milk and freshly grated nutmeg.

  37. Well Kansas is just fucked up. We all know that. Hell I live here and I’ll admit it freely.

    Any state that votes 70% to 30% to pass an anti-gay marriage amendment to the state constitution deserves all the derision it gets.

  38. Mexican-Americans
    Take Spanish in night school and make a C.

  39. Rover-That’s why I have stopped admiting any connection to Kansas, even though I was born there.

  40. This zero tolerence is getting so rediclous i mean their expelling kids for playing COWBOYS AND INDIANS and COPS AND ROBBERS they dont let them play DODGEBALL BECUASE THE LIBERAL NAMBDY PAMBDIES have taken over our schools and forcing their silly stuff on the kids

  41. I speak fluent Spanish, and I talk meet people all the time who have taken four to six years of Spanish, and they can’t carry on a conversation with me.

    I took the military foreign language test, I was the only gringo, and I was the highest scorer on the test. I was the only one that even scored above a two.

    I meet Mexicans and other south Americans that talk Spanish to each other, and I note that unless they just came from a foreign country they have the vocabulary of a 6 year old. Most the time when I see hispanic people talking to eachother, whenever they use words that only an adult would know they use words that are actually English, but they say it with a Spanish accent.

    I really don’t believe that this will become a predominantly Spanish speaking country in the upper echelons of buisness.

    By all means learn a foreign language to learn how thoughts are put together differently in another country. But don’t do it at the expense of learning English.

  42. Wait wait wait…there are languages besides English???

  43. way to juxtapose threats of violence with speaking spanish! yep, there really just the same thing. and we wonder why no one takes libertarians seriously.

  44. the racist reaction at the school about speaking spanish somehow implying poor english really does suggest warren’s power mad interpretation.

    you speak in the most convenient language. and yes, it’s okay to have private conversations. oooh! two kids in trenchcoats speaking klingon. get ’em!

    but for a school administrator to be threatened by a foreign language really shows what twaddlenocks those kansas idiots are.

  45. Dunno about 20 years ago, but 40 years ago if I’d have flipped anyone the bird my parents would have seen to it that I “burst into tears.”

  46. “I really don’t believe that this will become a predominantly Spanish speaking country in the upper echelons of buisness.”

    Maybe not in the “upper echelons” of business, but that’s not the point. The vast majority of people in the US aren’t in the upper echelons of business, but you still need to know English to get by at all in most places.

    With Castellano, it’s the same concept: With so many people not knowing any English or knowing very little (your colleagues notwithstanding) knowing only English is a handicap in certain areas in pretty much any profession.

    “Here is the deal. You have the right to attend or not to attend a school. The school has the right to enforce the rules it sees fit.”

    The reality of compulsory education aside, the fact is that a public school must abide by certain guidelines, like the First Amendment.
    Go review your libertarian primer. 😉

  47. These students may be putting themselves at a disadvantage by not sufficiently “immersing” themselves in English, but they’re doing a great service to the Anglo kids at the school by immersing them in Spanish.

    Not in my experience in Texas high schools. The Latino kids who preferred not to (or couldn’t) speak English just didn’t talk to the Anglos.

  48. Living closer to Canada than to Mexico, I must say that Anglo rather clanks upon the ear. Yes, I’m an anglophone, but I’m no damn sasanach!

    Kevin

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