Schools

Not for Teacher: Criminalizing Free Speech in North Carolina

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Repeatedly.

It's now a Class 2 misdemeanor—akin to simple assault—for North Carolina students to use the interwebs to "intimidate or torment" a school employee.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

School officials in North Carolina and elsewhere say the moves are necessary to protect teachers in an age when comments posted online—sometimes by students pretending to be the teachers they are mocking—can spread quickly and damage reputations.

…While nearly every U.S. state has now passed measures to curb student-on-student cyberbullying, North Carolina is apparently the first to pass a law aimed at students bullying teachers online.

Students who build a fake profile for, post an image of, or repeatedly email a school employee in a harassing manner could spend up to 60 days in jail or face a $1,000 fine.

The courts are split on whether schools can discipline students for parody and criticism created off campus. In two separate cases, the *3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals shot down disciplinary action (10-day suspensions) for students who made lewd and immature comments about their principals on fake MySpace profiles. But the *2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Connecticut schools' decision to bar a student from becoming class secretary after she wrote a blog post criticizing a Battle of the Bands concert.

The Supreme Court has so far declined the opportunity to take up the issue. Perhaps the fact that students in North Carolina now face criminal charges, rather than disciplinary action, will make an impression on the Supremes.   

North Carolina legislators passed the School Violence Prevention Act this July with support from the Classroom Teachers Association of North Carolina.

See here for more Reason coverage of students bullying teachers and other overreactions to cyberbullying.  

*This post has been changed. In the initial version, the 2nd and 3rd U.S. Circuit Courts were reversed. HT: Hans Bader.

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  1. John C Ross must be on loan from The Onion, because this has to be a fucking farce.

  2. The Supreme Court has so far declined the opportunity to take up the issue. Perhaps the fact that students in North Carolina now face criminal charges, rather than disciplinary action, will make an impression on the Supremes.

    I should hope to God they do – though my faith in them reaching the correct decision is scant at this point.

  3. Good for North Carolina. I mean, look, I’m one of the biggest supporters of free speech out there…

    1. I read that as “Good for North Korea….”

      That somehow seems more appropriate.

      1. Take away the big box retail outlets, pretty much.

        1. Both have good bbq.

  4. All the tension in the world today
    All the little girls fillin up the world today
    With the good comes the bad the bad comes the good…

    Do we always gotta cry? (gotta cry)
    Do we always gotta live inside a lie (inside a lie)
    Life’s just a blast
    When it’s Movin really fast
    Better stay on top of life
    or life will kick you in the ass

    Follow me into a solo
    Remember that, kid
    So what you wanna do?
    and where you gonna run
    When your starin down the cable
    of a mic pointed at your grill like a gun
    Limp Bizkit is rockin the set
    Its like Russian Roulette
    When your placin’ your bet
    So don’t be upset
    when you’re broke
    And you’re done
    Cuz im gonna be the one
    ’till I jet

    I know why you wanna hate me
    I know why you wanna hate me
    I know why you wanna hate me
    Cuz hate is all that the world has even seen lately
    now I know why you wanna hate me (x4)

    Does anybody really know the secret
    Or the combination for this life and where to keep it
    Its kinda sad when you don’t know the meaning
    But everything happens for a reason (for a reason)
    I don’t even know what I should say
    Cuz im an idiot, a loser, microphone abuser
    I analyze every second I exist
    Beating on my mind every second with my fish

    Everybody wanna run (wanna run)
    Everybody wanna hide from the gun (hide from the gun)
    You can take this rap through this life if you want
    But you can’t take the edge off the knife (no sir)
    And now you want your money back (money back)
    But your denied cuz your brains fried from the sack…

      1. Is that a Glee song?

        1. Limp Bizkit. So close enough.

  5. the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Connecticut schools’ decision to bar a student from becoming class secretary after she wrote a blog post criticizing a Battle of the Bands concert

    Well, I should HOPE so. You don’t wanna be dissin on no BATTLE O THE BANDS, no sir.

  6. “I’m Principal potty mouth and I smell bad like poopy!”

    And just like that some dedicated professionals’ 30 years of public service is erased and slandered.

    1. In a just world, being hated and mocked (anonymously) by students would be a gold badge of honor for a teacher/principal. Instead, we have to grovel for good ratings on their anonymous course evaluations so we can get tenure.

      1. You live a tough life, Tulpa Dumb. I’m not surprised your students hate and mock you. Doesn’t everyone?

        1. Teacher: This is a great day for me. I thought I could never teach again!
          Skinner: Oh, things have changed. There will be no more mockery of your name, Mr. Glascock.

        2. Exerpt from one of Tulpa’s actual student reviews: “Listening to Tulpa’s lecture has made me want to start cutting myself again.”

          1. “I’ve never felt more ashamed for a grown adult in my life, which is why I had to drop his section.”

            1. “He said if I blew him, he’d give me an automatic A. I chose to drop the class instead, although it didn’t warrant charges being pressed as it was an offer instead of coercion.”

              1. That wouldn’t be coercion, it would be harassment. Which is still a firing offense and something you’d get blacklisted forever for, as it should be.

            2. I had one of the largest classes in the university last semester. But keep embarrassing yourself, it’s fun to watch.

              (plus dropped students don’t get evals to fill out)

              1. 1. Washed up professors take positions at lesser institutions all the time, and die there.

                B) What if a student who dropped shows up or still hangs around in your massive class and fills out an anonymous evaluation? Or what if a group of dissatisfied customers has a conversation with the department chair or dean about you?

          2. “There is a reason people oppose tenure. He is that reason. Just think about having 40 more years of faculty meetings with him.”

      2. “Having to please our customers to keep our jobs is just SO UNFAIR!!!”

  7. The courts are split on whether schools can discipline students for parody and criticism created off campus.

    The second case isn’t discipline in the usual sense of the word. Students don’t have a right to be class secretary.

    1. They do if they follow the procedure for running and are fairly elected.

      Question: would you be OK if the school said they had to have a black Secretary because the rest of the offices are held by white kids, and thus forbade all white students from running?

      1. That’s discrimination, not discipline.

      2. Principal Skinner: (Over phone) I know Weinstein’s parents were upset Superintendent, but I was sure it was a phony holiday. I mean, it sounds so made-up: Yom kip-pur!

    2. Just read more on the CT case:

      The high court’s move [i.e., SCOTUS’ deciding not to take the case] leaves in place a decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the school, which held that a student’s First Amendment right to criticize school officials online was not “clearly established.” The lower court did not directly address what legal standard applies to off-campus speech, and the judges were criticized for not providing guidance.

      Which part of the 1A didn’t “clearly established” students’ right to…say anything the fuck they want? Why on earth do we need to “address what legal standard applies to off-campus speech”? WTF country am I living in?

      (Yes, I know we deny children rights. But what. the. fuck.)

      1. Your parenthetical answers the first two questions.

  8. Does this mean if I post something in California under the name sloopyinca, calling a teacher a moron or making fun of them, I could be charged with a crime?

    Hahaha. Yeah, this is gonna pass Constitutional muster.

    1. You’re not a K-12 student, so no.

      1. So now they’re making up a crime that is in direct violation of the 1A, and on top of that, it only applies to certain people, half of which aren’t ever 12 years old and capable of mens rea under NC statute (as far as I can tell).

        This gets more absurd every minute.

        1. Don’t forget the part where they are getting in trouble for making fun of people they are being legally forced to spend time with whether they want to or not.

          You’ll go to school, and you’ll like it!

    2. Not just a crime, a hate crime. Teachers: the next protected victim class.

      1. Exactly.

        And, since teachers are *in a position of authority*, AGGRAVATED hate crime.

    3. Actually, you’ve inspired me to propose yet another in a long series of cunning plans. We start a service where kids send us, legal adults, their complaints, and we publish them in the name of our company. As adults, the law not only doesn’t apply but can’t apply, so long as we avoid defamation and imminent incitements to violence, that sort of thing.

      In fact, if we do it right, we could get Section 230 immunity and allow all sorts of stuff to be published.

      1. Sounds good to me. I’m gonna start by drawing a picture of Muhammad sticking his fist in the ass of a NC teacher whilst fellating Optimus Prime.

        1. Well, you’d better consult risk management to see if our insurance covers terrorist attacks.

        2. It’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking anything when I read that or else it would have ended up all over my monitor and keyboard.

          Although are you sure you want to be the shitlist of fundamentalist wackjob muslims, NC teachers, and Transformers fanboys? I mean the muslims mostly just trash their own countries, and the NC teachers probably couldn’t find California on a map, but the Transformers nerds are fucking harsh.

  9. Superintendent Chalmers: We’re gonna put Bart Simpson away for a long, long time.
    Principal Skinner: By law, the most we can give him is a 10-day suspension.
    Superintendent Chalmers: That’s long to a kid.

  10. Holy fucking shit. Do we lynch the fuckers that voted for this piece of shit before or after the Supreme Court nullifies the fuck out of it?

    1. I’d be fine with ripping their nuts off so they don’t contaminate the rest of the gene pool.

  11. While I hate the fact that this is an overt shot at the 1st amendment, I can’t wait to see what happens when students backlash against this. It doesn’t take too much intelligence to use a SSH Tunnel, HA Proxy, or Tor to prevent being found out. I imagine now that there are real criminal stakes involved along with the awesomeness of the Streisand Effect – the teachers who supported this are going to be sorry as hell.

    1. Skinner: Bart, I’m flabbergasted. Surely you knew as you were writing your own name in 40-foot-high letters on the field that you would be caught.
      Bart: Maybe it was one of the other Barts. Sir.
      Skinner: (Yelling) There are no other Barts!

  12. What a load of crock. Back in my day, we gave kids the pain box — and that was just to make sure they weren’t human animals!

    See, this is what happens when we take shield practice out of the schools.

    1. “The slow lesson penetrates the dullard.”

    2. They got rid of the gom jabbar around the time they got rid of corporal punishment. Yeah, I know.

      The shield turns the fast blow, admits the slow kindjal!

      1. “Muad’Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson.”

        From the Princess Irulan’s Histories, which naturally are no longer required texts. #FremenRage

        1. Since the Fremen were based on Arabs, I’m surprised they haven’t embraced that–stillsuits, sandworms, the whole nine yards.

  13. One set of laws for the serfs (you), another for the king’s men (teachers).

    They are doing God’s work, after all.

  14. I eagerly await the criminal charges when some kid posts to his Facebook wall “Mr. Jones sucks at teaching calculus.”

  15. Some animals are more equal than others.

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