Free Speech

8th-Grader Suspended for "Search[ing] for Inappropriate Topics," Such as "Worst WWI Gun"

Fortunately, the N.Y. State Education Department has now reversed the decision, which had been made by the Valley Central School District (about 70 miles north of New York City).

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Just read an interesting Aug. 19, 2020 opinion of N.Y. State Education Department Interim Commissioner Betty A. Rosa (just posted on Westlaw), Appeal of N.R. N.R. was an eight-grade student who was suspended for a month because of what he searched for on his school-issued computer and the key legal analysis:

[Valley Central School District's] letter charged that, on or about November 19, 2018, the student "searched for inappropriate topics" on his school-issued computer (the "Chromebook"). The notice of charges for the long-term suspension hearing identified the following searches, which the district alleged were inappropriate:

  • What temperature does gasoline freeze at Fahrenheit;
  • worst WWI gun;
  • I will kill every drug addict;
  • funniest ways to die;
  • what's the sharpest knife;
  • nitroglycerin explosion;
  • is nitroglycerin really that unstable;
  • the fastest gun firing rate;
  • mother of all bomb explosion;
  • what is the sign that death is near;
  • is lidocaine legal; [and]
  • kill shot ….

In a written recommendation dated December 20, 2018, the hearing officer recommended that the student be found guilty of the "charged misconduct by making inappropriate searched on his school-issued Chromebook."

[1.] I agree with petitioner insofar as the district was limited to charging the student with misconduct for the specific search terms identified in the notice. At the hearing, certain search terms were discussed which were not listed within the written notice, such as "claymore" and "biggest european sword."

[2.] The district also implied at the hearing that the student violated district policy because some of his searches were unrelated to his schoolwork, rather than inherently inappropriate or violent in nature. The Commissioner has held that a district must be held to the language of the charges it chooses to pursue against a student. While it is unclear from the record if the hearing officer, superintendent, or respondent found the student guilty based upon any search terms that were not identified in the notice of charges, any such reliance would have been improper. Indeed, at the hearing, the middle school principal admitted as much when he indicated that the district chose not to charge the student with misconduct for certain search terms (e.g. "worst poker hand") that were not related to the student's academics.

[3.] Education Law §3214(3)(a) permits the suspension of "[a] pupil who is insubordinate or disorderly or violent or disruptive, or whose conduct otherwise endangers the safety, morals, health or welfare of others." … I cannot find that [the student's] searches violated either Education Law §3214 or the district policies identified in the notice of charges….

I agree with respondent that several of the terms for which the student searched—e.g. "the fastest gun firing rate," "nitroglycerin explosion," and "kill shot"—appeared violent on their face and warranted further investigation. At the hearing, however, the student testified as to his underlying reasons for conducting the searches, and none of these reasons were violent in nature. For example, the student testified that he searched for "kill shot" because he was looking for the lyrics to a popular song titled "killshot."

Similarly, the student testified that he searched for "nitroglycerin explosion" because he wanted to understand how nitroglycerin can be used as a medication for heart conditions when it was also used as an explosive during the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Indeed, the student's search history revealed that he had also searched for "what was nitroglycerin used for?" in close proximity to the "nitroglycerin explosion" search. The district notably did not submit any evidence to rebut the student's testimony during the hearing. Thus, there is no evidence in the record establishing that the student posed an actual threat of violence or had any violent intent when conducting the internet searches listed in the notice of the charge.

Furthermore, the record reflects that the student conducted the "hard reset" search on November 2, 2018, prior to the date upon which he engaged in the other search terms to which respondent objects. Thus, it could not have been performed, as respondent implies, to conceal the student's search history. Respondent did not otherwise explain how the "hard reset" search was improper, nor did it allege or prove that the search violated any district policy.

Moreover, respondent failed to prove by competent and substantial evidence that the mere act of searching for such terms—regardless of the student's intent—endangered the safety, morals, health, or welfare of others. The student's search history was only discovered after respondent decided to examine the student's Chromebook for reasons unrelated to student discipline. Notably, there is no evidence that the student informed anyone of his internet searches or that anyone at the school would have been aware of the student's search history if not for the district's review of such search history. Nor is there any evidence in the record that any students or faculty members became aware of the student's search history after the district's review of the student's Chromebook, except for those individuals involved in bringing the instant disciplinary charge against the student.

Thus, I find that the student's conduct, which was unknown prior to its discovery and which would not foreseeably cause any disruption to school operations or activities, was not conduct for which the district could properly suspend the student under Education Law §3214(3)(a).

The analysis seems quite right to me. A school might be reasonable in doing some investigation based on such student searches, if it happens to learn about them—but not in simply suspending the student.

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  1. Sounds like a grotesque invasion of privacy, even if it was a school-issued computer. After all, who pays for school-issued computers?

    1. I think if you’re using a school issued computer, or an employer issued computer, you need to assume that your school or your employer may keep track of what you’re doing on it, if for no other reason because it might create liability for them.

      But on the merits, I agree with this decision. Curiosity should normally be encouraged.

      1. It is not a criminal offense to use the employer’s computer — it IS (truancy) to refuse to use the school’s. Big difference there.

        And WHERE was he using it? At home?

        This is a very real issue with Zoom where one school district is demanding that parents not monitor their children while they are engaged in Zoom classes from the parent’s own homes. Yes.

        There are some serious parental rights issues here.

        1. Not really, because in both cases you’re using a computer owned by someone else who is potentially liable for what you may do with it. So if you’re using a school computer, or a work computer, you need to assume that big brother is watching you.

          1. We need to impose limits on “I am paying for this”. Paying someone’s legal fees doesn’t giv you the right to see their privileged communications. Similarly they should not see everything private.

            1. It’s even more than that Dilan — when schools started handing out laptops 20 years ago (Maine’s statewide initiative started in 2002), it was very much a privilege. Laptops were expensive and internet access scarce, and this was largely outside the curriculum. (Chromebooks didn’t exist yet, they were buying $3000 Apple laptops and providing dial-in access to the school’s internet access.

              Chromebooks are now under $150 and McDonalds has free WiFi. Hence the school-issued laptop is no longer a desired privilege, but it has become a mandate as things must be done on it.

              And then with Zoom Skool, it’s the parents internet connect and the parent’s home that the school has confiscated — with parents who don’t being reported for child abuse. Seriously.

              So the state saying (a) you must use our computer AND (b) you have no civil rights because it’s our computer is bullshite.

              As is this: https://tennesseestar.com/2020/08/15/rutherford-county-schools-tell-parents-not-to-monitor-their-childs-virtual-classrooms/

              1. “So the state saying (a) you must use our computer AND (b) you have no civil rights because it’s our computer is bullshite.”

                The thing is, the state doesn’t say (a).

                1. Really. Look up Boston Globe on Nexis….

                  1. Boston Globe is government?

                    1. No, it reports on it.

            2. “We need to impose limits on “I am paying for this”.

              Especially when “I” is the government. If I spend $1000 on a computer, the government doesn’t have the right to monitor it. So if they tax me $1000 and provide my kid with a computer, why should they have the right to monitor it?

              1. Are they going to be responsible for anything your kid does with it? If the answer is “yes”, then they need ability to keep track of it.
                A big problem is that the copyright police can readily track copyright infringement traffic to an IP address. This means they can track to the school. Then they get a subpoena demanding to know who is associated with the IP address

              2. ” If I spend $1000 on a computer, the government doesn’t have the right to monitor it.”

                Except for when they do.

          2. Bullshite.

            I refuse to permit my child to use a school computer for this reason. In fact, I refuse to even permit it into my house because schools *have* turned on the cameras and microphones to spy on parents. (This actually has happened….)

            That then becomes truancy.

            The wild card in all of this is FAPE and I’m honestly not sure how that would have shaken out had the state upheld the suspension.

            1. Bullshite, indeed.
              Under what theory does turning on cameras and microphones to spy on parents turn into truancy?

              1. When students don;t log in.

          3. Yes. In many districts the school is held responsible for anything that students do with school-owned property. That may not make sense with regard to a Chromebook, especially when it’s allowed to be taken home where using it for non-school purposes is an obvious thing to expect, but the rules were generally written when “school-owned property” would be things like chemistry sets, tools, etc.

            This case is an obvious overreaction, but if the student *had* been trying to make bombs, in some places the school would have been blamed in retrospect for *not* noticing.

        2. “It is not a criminal offense to use the employer’s computer — it IS (truancy) to refuse to use the school’s. Big difference there.”

          Your understanding of law appears to be around as good as your understanding of computer technology, which is to say “nil zip nada zilch”

            1. Your tiny little dick? No thank you.
              We can add “interpersonal communication” to the list of things you aren’t nearly as good at as as you imagine yourself to be.

        3. “It is not a criminal offense to use the employer’s computer”

          Except when it is.

      2. I think if you’re using a school issued computer, or an employer issued computer, you need to assume that your school or your employer may keep track of what you’re doing on it, if for no other reason because

        …they tell you that they might/will.

        1. “…they tell you that they might/will.”

          “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

          The fact that the state says it might/will do something doesn’t mean that it legally can.

          1. Dr. Ed 2: This wasn’t on the child’s “papers [or] effects.” It was on the school’s.

            1. That would be a fact. Ed has a known disinterest in those.

            2. “Papers” were documents, i.e computer files.

              1. Yes. And they belonged to the school.

                1. “Yes. And they belonged to the school.”

                  The RIAA would likely differ on that — mere ownership of the computer does NOT inherently include ownership of anything stored on the computer.

                  Under your argument, schools (and not students) would own the copyright to student works. Are you honestly saying that a 1st Grader can’t send the drawing to grandma because the school paid for the piece of paper and the crayons?

                  1. “The RIAA would likely differ on that — mere ownership of the computer does NOT inherently include ownership of anything stored on the computer.”

                    Interesting theory. Ownership of the device does not imply ownership of the device. I don’t think that’s going to work.

                  2. “Under your argument, schools (and not students) would own the copyright to student works. Are you honestly saying that a 1st Grader can’t send the drawing to grandma because the school paid for the piece of paper and the crayons?”

                    Now we have to add copyright to the list of things you don’t understand nearly as well as you think you do.

                    Owning a copyright in a work has approximately zero to do with ownership of copy (including the original copy) of a copyrighted work. There’s a list of the rights granted to copyright owners at 17 USC 106. Notice that “right to refuse transfer of ownership to third party” isn’t on the list? So no matter who owns the copyright, copyright doesn’t prevent little Junior from sending his art project to Grandma.

                  3. “mere ownership of the computer does NOT inherently include ownership of anything stored on the computer.”

                    But it does allow for consent to a search.

                2. The documents were created by the student. Copyright attaches at the moment the piece is fixed in a tangible form. Absent certain exceptions (work for hire or an explicit written assignment of copyright), that copyright is owned by the creator.

                  Under what theory do you claim that they (the documents mentioned in the comment you are replying to) “belonged to the school”? Now, I have seen reports that Prince George’s County, Maryland has made the claim that students’ work is “work for hire”. (For more analysis, see, for example, this article: https://alj.artrepreneur.com/school-copyright-in-student-work/ )

                  I don’t find PG County’s position compelling. In fact I find it deeply offensive to both the text and intent of the Copyright Act and an attempt to steal the work of the students.

                  Perhaps you disagree, but if so, that seems to be a minority opinion, as a search on the subject will quickly demonstrate. (I won’t add any more links, as multiple links seem to cause comments to be caught in spam filters.)

                  1. Copyright is immaterial.
                    Students own the copyright on the answers they write to exam questions, but this doesn’t mean that they can prevent the teacher from using them to assign a grade. (or apply school discipline)
                    You might want to review 17 USC 106, which lists the exlusive rights that are granted by owning a copyright. Note that “examining” the work is NOT one of the exclusive rights.

      3. Maybe the progressives on the school board should report the parents for child abuse. That would be a quick way to get the child out of that household and placed with an appropriate foster family: perhaps a same sex, Muslim or Hispanic family. The authorities should investigate the child’s attitude in a few weeks and, if it has not changed, the child should be euthanized for the child’s own sake.

        1. Reporting parents for child abuse doesn’t result in having the child removed unless there’s evidence that supports the likelihood that abuse is present.

    2. TwelveInch, I encourage you to re-think this. There is no invasion of privacy unless there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in the first place. As a lawyer, I deal constantly with clients and opponents and nonparty witnesses who have assumed — absolutely wrongly — that they had some expectation of privacy in their emails sent and received on accounts created using someone else’s (typically their employer’s) domain name, often on hardware owned and operated by someone else (again, typically their employer). Frequently, the process in which their misapprehensions about privacy are corrected is a very painful one, as it has been for this boy and his family.

      I preach the gospel of justifying your expectations; I preach the gospel of assuming anyone else who can access communications will eventually do so. As the world becomes increasingly less private, join me in helping educate everyone to keep such privacy as technology and the law still leave them.

      1. My law practice occasionally requires me to find people who don’t wish to be found, and to find things out about people that they wish to keep secret. I’ve been at this long enough that nothing should surprise me any more, but I’m amazed at what a good private investigator can find out about someone. The idea that anyone still has any privacy left is basically a quaint fiction at this point. There are no secrets. Govern yourself accordingly.

        1. For the exclusionary rule to apply, there must be a criminal prosecution in which the defendant has made a motion to exclude certain evidence on grounds that it was obtained in violation of that defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.

          The child faces no criminal charges. There will be no trial from which evidence must be excluded. But if there were: Again, because there was no reasonable expectation of privacy, meaning no violation of the Fourth Amendment and no need for a warrant, meaning any exclusionary rule objection would be overruled.

          I note that I have no quibble with the result here. I’m just responding to the argument that there was some sort of invasion of privacy.

          1. With the FAPE mandate, suspension becomes a quasi-criminal proceeding — read the ruling and tell me that’s a far cry from a bench trial ruling.

            The Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply, school staff can do locker searches but cops need a warrant, but it’s what you can and can’t do with what you find in a locker. If I find a gun in a locker, yes — but if I find a NRA poster or decal? Or a picture of a kid hunting with his dad?

            Assuming the hunting and gun possession was lawful in the jurisdiction — and most states permit children to hunt with their parents — the picture shouldn’t be secret as much as the school ought not be able to do anything about it.

            And schools have…

            And it’s the same thing with Google searches — it’s a reasonable expectation that no one is going to care, which is an aspect of privacy.

            1. “With the FAPE mandate, suspension becomes a quasi-criminal proceeding — read the ruling and tell me that’s a far cry from a bench trial ruling.”

              Criminal trials are held in front of a jury unless the defendant specifically waives jury trial. So, no a suspension hearing is not like a criminal trial.

  2. Sounds like the kid was getting tired of Cuomo.

    1. If the child was an eighth-grader he probably already had enough education to prefer Cuomo and better America to Trump and the clingers.

      1. 8th grade is about the intellectual maturity of the typical diehard Cuomo cultist. Strange how much he acts like Trump, but in fact, not rhetorically, managed to kill off a shit-ton of his own & you still cling to him, kirkland.

    2. Any sane and moral person would.

  3. Looks like the last quoted paragraph should be outside the quote.

    1. Whoops, thanks, fixed!

  4. But I’ll bet that searches for “gay sex” and “gender transmorphism” would have been allowed.

    1. It would have been interesting had his parents demanded that the district conduct an equally invasive search of all the other students’ laptops.

      I’m thinking content neutrality here as it is a public school and hence state action.

      1. Except we don’t know why this one was searched. There may have been a legitimate reason to single him out, or there might not have been. We’re not told.

        1. From what is mentioned, it appears that the operating system got corrupted — it happens — and the solution with a Chromebook is to do a hard reset to factory settings. For some reason, the tech folks decided to look at the log of his Google searches and that’s how they found this.

      2. It would have been interesting had his parents demanded that the district conduct an equally invasive search of all the other students’ laptops.

        It would not have been interesting, as the parents have no right to “demand” any such thing.

        1. They certainly have a right to demand. The school just has a right to reject that demand.

          Of course, when that happens, the parents also have a right to note that the school’s refusal indicates that pretending that the searches themselves are dangerous is really pretextual and that the punishment was because they just didn’t like the kid looking at those issues.

          1. “Of course, when that happens, the parents also have a right to note that the school’s refusal indicates that pretending that the searches themselves are dangerous is really pretextual”

            And then they tell that to a sympathetic reporter who doesn’t realize why we can’t comment (FERPA, etc.), and things get *really* interesting….

          2. “Of course, when that happens, the parents also have a right to note that the school’s refusal indicates that pretending that the searches themselves are dangerous is really pretextual and that the punishment was because they just didn’t like the kid looking at those issues.”

            And, of course, pointing out that this is all just silly just proves the political bias of whoever we object to.

            1. And you clearly fail to understand that K-12 policy is POLITICAL…

              1. Usually small-town political, often being things like whose feelings were hurt 30-40 years ago when she went with someone else to the senior prom…

                1. You’re an idiot. What kind of POLITICAL does that count as?

                  1. The part that matters…

                    1. Fine. You’re a POLITICAL idiot.

        2. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

          I won’t even get into the aspects of FAPE & IDEA in this — you actually have to prove that you aren’t punishing the child for something you permit every other child to do.

          And as to parent’s right to “demand” things, you ain’t been around K-12 recently…

          1. I won’t even get into the aspects of FAPE & IDEA in this — you actually have to prove that you aren’t punishing the child for something you permit every other child to do.

            No, you don’t.

              1. You know, a lot of those really, really expensive out-of-district SPED placements come out of situations like this. FAPE & IDEA…

            1. Are you questioning “Dr. Ed”‘s expertise of “eduational policy” again? Because it’s almost certainly correct to do so.

              1. Much like questioning your legal competence, or lack thereof.

                1. earned a law degree and passed a bar exam. Whereas you just make easily disproven claims on the Internet.

                  1. earned a law degree and passed a bar exam.

                    So did a lot of incompetent lawyers.

                    1. that would be their problem. I’m an IT administrator, dingus.

          2. “And as to parent’s right to “demand” things, you ain’t been around K-12 recently…”

            People have a right to demand anything they want (even if it’s something ridiculous, like maybe the police shouldn’t kill so many unarmed black people).
            More importantly, the parents demanding something does not produce any kind of obligation to do it for them.

    2. “But I’ll bet that searches for “gay sex” and “gender transmorphism” would have been allowed.”

      I know someone who does those exact searches on his school computers.

      1. I don’t doubt it. A NAMBLA buddy?

        1. You tell me. It’s you.

          1. I’ll put the odds at 50/50. Maybe NAMBLA, maybe just antisocial.

  5. I’m happy with the result. I can’t understand what is going through the brain of some school admin who decides, based on their conclusion that this kid is a threat to himself or others, to suspend him and then publish his search history in the ensuing dispute. If someone was concerned for this kid they should have talked to him about the search terms. How would suspending him improve the situation?

    1. Never, ever, underestimate the stupidity (or paranoia) of a school administrator today. They are suspending kids for TOY guns in THEIR OWN HOMES. See: https://www.newsweek.com/two-colorado-students-suspended-school-after-handling-toy-guns-during-virtual-classes-1529764

      My personal favorite is the kindergarten (?) kid who ate a Danish into the shape of a gun — it was a damn pastry and they called that a gun.

      It really is part of a greater war on boys and all things boys.

      1. “It really is part of a greater war on boys and all things boys.”

        Just like cracking down on your porn habits are.

    2. “How would suspending him improve the situation?”

      If he is radicalized, then he’s somewhere else, and not in the school. The school administrators are charged with preserving the resources of the school, and the people who are inside it at any given point in time.

      1. Using your rationale, if you are pulled over speeding, it’s likely better for the cop to incapacitate you. And the court to remove driving privileges. A lot to be said for actually asking questions of people vs assuming. And, I’ll come up again against the insistence on reading minds, although you did at least not insist that he was radicalized. How you got to him possibly being so says as much about you as the kid.

        1. “Using your rationale, if you are pulled over speeding, it’s likely better for the cop to incapacitate you.”

          Using MY rationale, the cop who pulled me over doesn’t even have a gun, so she’ll have to have a truly radiant smile to incapacitate me.

          ” I’ll come up again against the insistence on reading minds”
          Don’t recall even suggesting reading minds. Are you sure you’re responding to words that *I* wrote?

          “How you got to him possibly being so says as much about you as the kid.”
          I live in the real world, where school shootings exist. While they continue to exist, the possibility that there is another unknown shooter continues to exist.
          So you think taking reality into account says something about me? what does it say? Remember, NO MIND READING!

          1. Looking from the outside it seems like for many of the school shooters if someone bothered to talk to them, they might not have become school shooters.

            I come from a country with pretty lax gun laws and a reasonable amount of gun ownership (I mean we only have 12.5 guns per 100 people but still a decent amount), about one tenth the US, yet we don’t get 1 tenth the number of school shootings.

  6. “Worst WW-I” gun is a reference to the US M1918 Chauchat machine gun chambered for the American .30-’06 round. That is a legitimate topic for US History.

    It was political, the British wanted American soldiers to replace dead British soldiers in *British* units under their flag and their command and we refused so they would not let us have their Vicker’s machine guns — which is how we wound up with Chauchat which really wasn’t very good.

    Unlike WW-II where America was the “Arsenal of Democracy”, WW-I was largely fought with European matériel because Europe had literally run out of bodies to fight it.

    1. The Chauchat was a French gun.

      1. Never fired, only dropped once!

        1. The French WON that war.

          1. … AND the American Revolution.

      2. Yes it was adopted by the AEF in 8mm and later manufactured in 30-06. The 30-06 was abysmal. It seems to have been the manufacturing of the US version that was the problem.

      3. French-made, and then poorly re-chambered for the larger American round.

        1. And it’s .30-’06 — the 1906 .30 round that we used through Korea.

    2. It may be a tossup between the Chauchat (regardless of which country was using it) and the Canadian Ross. The point is, of course, that to ‘gun people’ (roughly speaking) a search for ‘the worst WWI gun’ means the least reliable or effective (which was my natural interpretation); to ‘anti-gun people’ it means ‘the most deadly, etc.’ I suspect that the school admins fell into the latter camp. Who knows about the student — except that it is hard to believe that anyone contemplating mischief would search specifically for *WWI* firearms. If you search Google, it actually brings up the Chauchat first.

      1. And my issue is that at least they will get WW-I in the correct half-century — and know who won it….

        An amazing number of COLLEGE graduates don’t know that we ever fought a war with Germany (i.e. WW-II) and when told we did, have no idea who won it….

        So the boys are interested in the statistics of the weapons and girls are interested in the style of the uniforms (e.g. WW-I leggings) — whatever….

        The important points are that they realize that (a) there was a war, (b) we were in it, and (c) we were on the winning side. There’s a lot more that I’d like them to remember, but these are the basics and if it takes knowing whose machine gun sucked the most for them to remember this, I can live with that…

        1. Well, “We taught them a lesson, in 1918, and they’ve hardly . . .”

          1. I mention that in discussing the bombing of Dresden.

          2. Hurrah for the Multi-Lateral Force!

        2. “An amazing number of COLLEGE graduates don’t know that we ever fought a war with Germany (i.e. WW-II) and when told we did, have no idea who won it”

          Johnny Horton did his best to set them straight:

          In May of nineteen forty-one the war had just begun
          The Germans had the biggest ship, they had the biggest guns
          The Bismarck was the fastest ship that ever sailed the sea
          On her deck were guns as big as steers and shells as big as trees
          Out of the cold and foggy night came the British ship, the Hood
          And every British seaman, he knew and understood
          They had to sink the Bismarck, the terror of the sea
          Stop those guns as big as steers and those shells as big as trees
          We’ll find the German battleship that’s makin’ such a fuss
          We gotta sink the Bismarck cause the world depends on us
          Hit the decks a-runnin’ boys and spin those guns around
          When we find the Bismarck we gotta cut her down

      2. ‘Worst WWI gun’ has a couple of possible contexts. You could be interested in artillery pieces or naval warfare. You might even be looking for information about aerial warfare. Doesn’t seem to have anything to do with 8th-grade curriculum. which is a problem if you’ve agreed to use your school-provided device only for school.

        1. World History, which includes WW-I, is 8th grade curriculum.

          1. Wasn’t in mine. I had geography that year.

            Can’t recall any history class that I ever had that went into details about who manufactured the infantry weapons carried by the troops, except for a bit about “cloth yard shafts” and the yew bows carried by English archers during the various wars with the French.

            1. Are you really trying to argue that the schools process here was in any way reasonable? I mean I could see someone going to speak to him about what he was looking for, if for whatever reason I ended up seeing his google searches. Though given the other searches that were part of that search history and are specifically mentioned, even that doesn’t seem strictly necessary unless there are some really disturbing issues he already has.

              But having a tribunal and suspending him for a month seems like an insane overreaction on the one hand and a great way to create another school shooter on the other. If he really was unstable and was searching for that stuff because he wanted to kill his classmates is a months suspension going to make him better?

  7. Further proof that retaining search terms should be illegal?
    Further proof that Google is the devil incarnate seeping into the minds of innocent children through the devil’s tools of Chrome and Google search?
    Further proof that no education should ever use the internet?
    Further proof no educator should ever be allowed to work for, or ever have been associated with, any level of government whatsoever?
    Or just another day in (a fool’s) paradise?

    1. Further proof that one ought to use DuckDuckGo & Firefox?

      1. On a chromebook?

          1. Save up your money, buy your own (real) computer.

    2. “Further proof that retaining search terms should be illegal?”

      On what legal theory?

      1. Public Policy fiat — kinda like how we imposed the holder in due course rule.

  8. Had internet searches been possible when I was in the 8th grade, I can easily see myself as making similar searches. That’s what 8th grade boys do. Good grief.

    1. Lucky for him there were no sex searches I guess.

      1. That would have been just fine, if it was a search for gay sex or transsexuals surgery.

    2. Definitely went looking for similar things in the school library. Half that stuff can be found in Britannica if you have the patience.

      1. They don’t teach people to look things up in the encyclopedia any more. Today’s kids also don’t learn how to use a card catalog.

  9. Most painful wedgies
    Do school administrators hurt when they’re given wedgies
    The art of the wedgie

    1. You’ve wandered off into porn territory.

  10. So if he Googled “How to Build an Atom Bomb in you Basement” would the suspension have been justified?

    1. On what theory? That he posed a danger to the school because he might have actually built an atom bomb in his basement?

      1. Sure. He might build two, and call them Fat Boy and Little Man. Which would cause great offense to overweight children and midgets.

        1. Stuffing aluminum foil into a 2 liter soda bottle containing pool chlorine will make a (quite dangerous) explosive device that is illegal in most states. It may even be a Federal offense.

          On the other hand, trying to figure out the chemical reaction between Aluminum and Sodium Hypochlorite is perfectly legal — it’s actually something to be encouraged.

          Understanding the difference between the two requires the adult judgement badly lacking in K-12.

          1. Homemade fireworks is one possible side effect of a curiousity about chemistry and physics. Part of education is providing guidance. This is why driver’s ed cars don’t have nitrous kits.

            1. You don’t need a nitrous kit to die in a fatal wreck.

              1. True. Nor did James P come remotely close to suggesting that.

              2. “You don’t need a nitrous kit to die in a fatal wreck.”

                True. Nor to learn how to drive.

          2. “Understanding the difference between the two requires the adult judgement badly lacking in K-12.”

            Say, isn’t that where YOU work?

              1. Not smart enough? (Just a hunch).

      2. “On what theory? That he posed a danger to the school because he might have actually built an atom bomb in his basement?”

        Depends on what his access to enriched Uranium looks like.

        1. Plutonium.

          Bombs are made out of Plutonium…

          1. Once again you “correct” me without actually knowing what the fuck you’re talking about.

            Plutonium doesn’t exist naturally. It has to be made. Out of Uranium-238. So atomic boms are made by starting with naturally-occurring Uranium, from which you remove all the Uranium-235. (A process called “enrichment”) (The leftover Uranium-235 is extremely dense, so it can be machined into tank shells with good armor-piercing qualities. This is what “depleted Uranium” is. What it isn’t is depleted of is radioactivity. Sorry, Tankers and people who live in places where tank battles have been fought.)
            You can also skip the Plutonium entirely, and build your a-bombs out of U-238. Ask anyone from Hiroshima if an atomic bomb made out of Uranium works. That’s more of that “World History” that you should have learned in 8th grade.

            1. “without actually knowing what the fuck you’re talking about.”

              Speaking of, you have your isotopes backwards.

              1. But the right element.

      3. If an 8th grader can pull this off, all 4 of the knuckleheads on the potus/vpotus tickets can go away. His folks should run the country for 4 years.

      4. “On what theory? That he posed a danger to the school because he might have actually built an atom bomb in his basement?”

        Wasn’t that a movie?
        Oh yeah, it was:
        https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091472/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

    2. David Hahn, aka “The Nuclear Boy Scout” built a working neutron generator in 1993 — before Google even existed.

      It’d be worth a question or two as to what the boy was doing — and perhaps exercising some adult judgement. I know, we are talking about K-12 administrators, but still…

  11. “…the district also implied at the hearing that the student violated district policy because some of his searches were unrelated to his schoolwork…”

    Really? It’s against policy for a student to become curious about something “unrelated to his schoolwork” and research it? And these people call themselves “educators”? The essence of education is instilling curiosity about the world and providing the mental tools to research and evaluate evidence on ones own.

    While I appreciate the privacy concerns mentioned above, this anti-curiosity policy is the far bigger problem here.

    1. They don’t mine curiosity, so long as it is on the topics and viewpoints they approve.

      1. *mind. They don’t mind curiosity . . . .

      2. If he googled “why are white people so evil” he would have received an award and been put on the speaking circuit like that global warming fraud kid.

        1. Well, it seems that SOMEBODY’S mad that nobody will pay good money to hear him speak…

    2. While I appreciate the privacy concerns mentioned above, this anti-curiosity policy is the far bigger problem here.

      I once pointed out to someone in my office that there are two kinds of people, buses and trains. Buses are able to go anywhere there is a paved road. If there is a pothole, they just go around.

      Trains are much faster and more powerful than buses. But they must stay on their tracks. If they deviate from the track by an inch, the whole train comes to a grinding halt.

      Most educators and educational administrators are trains.

      1. such a shame that nobody’s a helicopter or submarine.

        1. The parents are the helicopters.

          Why would anyone want to be a sandwich?

    3. “Really? It’s against policy for a student to become curious about something “unrelated to his schoolwork” and research it?”

      Just like at work, knock it off and follow your assigned tasks and leave the wandering to you own time (and using your own computer resources.)

  12. Upon reading this post, I immediately searched for “Worst Gun of WWI.”

    Unsurprisingly, some of the top-listed results were news stories about this boy and his suspension.

    But the others broke into two categories: Those in which “worst” was interpreted as “least effective, most likely to injure their users instead of the enemy,” and those in which “worst” was interpreted as “deadly.”

    Guns are deadly; that, and going “bang,” are pretty much their defining characteristics.

    Only the confused and weakminded would make the second assumption. Do they think the “best” gun is the least effective and most likely to kill its user?

    1. “Guns are deadly; that, and going “bang,” are pretty much their defining characteristics.

      Only the confused and weakminded would make the second assumption.”

      Exactly how confused and weakminded do you have to be to think guns go “bang”? In Star Wars, the guns go “Pew! Pew! Pew!”

      1. Because there is noise in a vacuum….

        Scary thing is that you might not understand why there isn’t….

        1. Wrong again!
          first rule of correcting someone on the Internet:
          First make sure that you are more correct than the person you are “correcting”.
          come back after you complete this important step.

          1. Hint: Approximately 0% of Star Wars was recorded in a vacuum.

            1. Hint, Star Wars was a movie…

              1. No shit? that changes everyth… wait a minute! that doesn’t make a vacuum magically appear! You knew it was a movie when you said it was made in a vacuum.

                Let’s get to the bottom of this vacuum/noise thing. Is there any sound inside your head?

  13. (Stylistically, I prefer WW1 myself.)

    1. “(Stylistically, I prefer WW1 myself.)”

      Waves of poor infrantry SOBs climbing out of their trenches to run straight into enemy machine guns. What’s not to love. Meanwhile, above, airplanes made of wood and paper fly around, with the pilots tossing hand grenades out over the same infantry SOBs.

      At least by the second one they had jet fighters.

  14. Maybe as early as 10 years ago professionals would have said these searches are normal for a teenage boy. In the era of anti-male, toxic masculinity (is there such as thing as toxic feminism?) this doesn’t surprise me.

    If I were the IT administrator who saw this search history I might tag it for a follow up with a guidance counselor, but definitely not discipline.

  15. Something I would love to know. What was the impetus for the search of the history in the first place?

    1. Agreed and I’m also curious how the information was obtained.

    2. From what I see so far all it says is, “The student’s search history was only discovered after respondent decided to examine the student’s Chromebook for reasons unrelated to student discipline.”

  16. If the school handed out pencils, would they be entitled to search everything you used them to write with, and punish you if it didn’t conform to your rules, because liability? What’s the difference?

    Separate from whether there should be monitoring or punishment of home use at all, what’s astonishing is the length of the suspension.

    1. “If the school handed out pencils, would they be entitled to search everything you used them to write with, and punish you if it didn’t conform to your rules, because liability? What’s the difference?”

      Valid point. Still, perhaps the nature of trackable tech would be their defense, saying that would school-issued pencils telegraph students’ private writings to school and governmental snoops, those scribblings, likewise, would be the property of, and thereby subject to discretionary adjudgement by, school and governmental snoops/ concerned educators and LEO.

      Is the answer to not send children to public schools or to, at least, refuse public school-issued equipment, if one supports the privacy of children at home?

      1. Such snooping and flagging by school and other authorities constitute a precursor to pre-crime and pre-punishment policies, along the lines of a UK program, which has been profiling even very young students wrt to possible future criminality, based not only upon internet searches or actual writing which are more applicable to older students, but upon in-class behavior, home-life, and demographic assessments by teachers and statisticians. The assessments are entered into students’school records from pre-school on.

        Seems we’re lagging behind our New World “betters” and need to step up the privacy intrusions and knee-jerk labeling of all school-aged children. We need to document the fact that we believe Little Johnny will be a thug and five year-old Mary his moll, that first-grader Fred might a terrorist and little Juanito his solace. This should make us safer, no?

        1. Not to worry, that’s in the Common Core curriculum.

        2. “Seems we’re lagging behind our New World ‘betters'”

          In terms of knowing which World, Old or New, that you live in, well, yeah. you’re lagging.

      2. God forbid a school should do any kind of analysis of what a student writes.

    2. “If the school handed out pencils, would they be entitled to search everything you used them to write with, and punish you if it didn’t conform to your rules, because liability? What’s the difference?”

      https://loweringthebar.net/2012/04/fourth-lawyer-not-yet-stabbed.html

    3. If the school handed out pencils, would they be entitled to search everything you used them to write with, and punish you if it didn’t conform to your rules, because liability? What’s the difference?

      Bad analogy. A better one would be the school handing out notebooks (I mean paper ones, not small laptops) for students to use for school, and then looking at what students wrote in them. Or, you know, schools assigning desks or lockers, and then looking at what students kept in them.

    4. “If the school handed out pencils, would they be entitled to search everything you used them to write with, and punish you if it didn’t conform to your rules, because liability? What’s the difference?”

      How about if the school handed out spraypaint, and didn’t like what you drew on the walls?

  17. The suspension here was already served, a long time ago.

    1. But it does mean the school district and the persons involved can be sued for compensation.

  18. The whole idea that google search history is important [or says something about the person] is weird.

    If I am reading something and I see a reference to a person or thing that I am not familiar with, I might google an article about that and maybe then further multiple articles about references in that article.

    So I am reading about a WWII movie to see its plot and I see it has some interesting real life characters, I may look up the characters. So, I end up reading about 2 nazi generals and 4 SS officers who got hung after the war, It does not mean I am a nazi, only I am trying to learn something or just kill time.

    1. Your claimed lack of interest in Nazis is noted if not believed.

    2. “The whole idea that google search history is important [or says something about the person] is weird. ”

      Nah. A certain subset of America reacts poorly to efforts to keep guns out of the hands of people who want to shoot other people for fun, because restrictions on guns affect people who want to use guns for lawul purposes. So, OK, focus on finding the people who want to use guns to shoot other people for fun.and intercede before they get one and start shooting. Poof! now you get people whining about “pre-crime” who saw a Tom Cruise movie that one time.

    3. I’ve searched some pretty bizarre things when doing crossword puzzles. 🙂

      1. Shouldn’t be doing crossword puzzles when you’re supposed to be doing your homework.

  19. “e.g. “the fastest gun firing rate,” “nitroglycerin explosion,” and “kill shot”—appeared violent on their face and warranted further investigation”

    Dumb. What would an investigation show, that he was going to shoot a lot of bullets to blow up some nitro?

    1. yeah, people search these terms to learn how to shoot a lot of bullets to blow up some nitro.

    2. And how many kids his age understand that (a) nitroglycerin permitted the blasting of railroad cuts/tunnels that couldn’t be done with black powder *and* how dangerous the nitroglycerin was until Nobel stabilized it in dynamite.

      1. Why would they care, unless they were looking forward to a life of working constructing railroads?

        Do you want the schools to be preparing students for a life of working constructing railroads?
        You know the E in “STEM education” isn’t about learning to be a train engineer, right?

        1. Every competent engineer I know is interested in how his predecessors overcame their challenges.

          1. So this is a valid part of the curriculum in engineering school.

            which few 8th-graders attend.

  20. And as the commissioner noted, a behavioral suspension requires conduct disruptive to others or the educational environment. Nobody saw the searches on the home computer, let alone was disrupted by it, until the students records were searched. Nobody could seriously believe they disrupted anything. Not only did a basis for a supspension not only exist, it was obvious it didn’t exist. It appears the school officials merely personally didn’t like it.

    I am wondering if the school officials here violated the student’s educational privacy by disclosing the student’s private educational materials and records with no legitimate educational purpose for that disclosure.

    1. ” Nobody saw the searches on the home computer”

      There’s no home computer in the story.

      1. Which is beside the point: If the only way to detect the searches was looking at a search log, there was no conduct disruptive to others, and no basis for the suspension.

        1. Why didn’t you say that in the first place instead of talking about the home computer that doesn’t exist?

          1. OK, not “you”, but ‘he” (assuming the Y in the username implies a Y in the genetic blueprint).

  21. By what mechanism did the school monitor his search activity? Software installed on the device?

    1. Best guess, proxy server. You get a log of all the URLS that are accessed, and by whom. Search terms are attached to the end of the URL.

  22. Some day this kid will be searching for gay porn mpg files to watch in the classroom, and calling himself “Dr. Ed 2”.

    1. And that’s libelous….

      1. to be libel, it has to be false.

      2. … and upthread, you outed yourself as a NAMBLA member.

        1. No, I said YOU are a NAMBLA member.

          1. You thought you were being clever, but it turn out that you are NOT clever, and in the process outed yourself.

  23. @ Dr. Ed 2: No, Mr. Pollock’s comment is clearly parody, and as regular readers of Prof. V’s know, it would therefore not be libelous even if you commented in your own name, rather than through a pseudonym.

    1. Well, I’m not going to drop myself low enough to respond in kind.

      1. You’re the one who wanted to argue that you have some kind of right to watch gay porn in a classroom. You tried citing all kinds of ludicrous legal theories about it and everything.

        1. Actually, you have a right to watch *gay* porn — it often is a requirement.

          1. No *YOU* have a right to watch gay porn (in the privacy of your home.)

            1. *YOU* have the right to drown in your own toilet.

              Please do.

              1. Why would I want to mix with your friends?

  24. I’m just glad where I live we didn’t over kill the pandemic with politics like America has when it comes to education. For now anyway. I don’t trust our officials one iota as they’ve shifted their opinions constantly. They opposed masks mandates on the grounds the science was weak and impacted civil liberties and then – poof! – mysteriously decided to mandate them.

    Here, they can easily panic, shut schools down and impose the dubious lockdown strategy. Totes see this happening.

    Anyway. Zoom online teaching is NOT education.

    My daughter is back at school full time. Some stupid measures like masks in the hall ways are in place but I think there will be somme wink-winking going on there and it limits the amount of time kids will be subjected to this tyranny of pseudo-science.

    1. Seven months into the pandemic and you still haven’t a clue about any of the facts.

      Impressively stupid.

  25. “Anyway. Zoom online teaching is NOT education. ”

    How about Blackboard?

    My daughter is currently working on a graduate degree by online school (she started online, because she doesn’t live in the same state the school she’s earning the degree from is in.)

    1. Blackboard is quite different from a videoconferencing tool — although it is more an issue of curriculum.

      1. No shit? Different things are different? Thank you SO much for your “helpful” comment.

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