No more teacher’s dirty looks

Now they get their attorney involved instead.  Remember back in the good old days when students drew caricatures of their teachers and principals on the blackboard or in passed notes?  OK, maybe you’re not as old as I am.  But every year technology makes it more likely that when you poke fun at authority, authority might poke back.

Four young people in Pennsylvania found that out when their former principal filed suit against them for posting bogus MySpace profiles in which they allegedly claimed that he “liked to have sex with students and brutalize women”, “kept a keg of beer behind his desk at school, was on steroids, and smoked marijuana,” and that his favorite movie was a pornographic film.  Each of the profiles was removed after the high school contacted MySpace.

The family of one of the accused is countersuing the principal and the school for their “excessive” response to one of the incidents: suspending the student from school and sending him to an alternate learning program.  The parents claim that their son’s free speech rights were thereby violated, as well as their right to determine how best to raise him.

Where do you draw the line between free speech and libel?  Should students have the right to make fun of their principal?  Does the fact that they impersonated him on the web make the case more serious to you?  Should the school system have a right to control and punish student behavior?  If so, how far should that extend?

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16 Responses to No more teacher’s dirty looks

  1. Hey Chip, Nice art! :) You are an artist!

    This is a very delicate matter. As technology evolves, it gives new means to people (Anyone really), to create compromising material out of thin air that could put anyone in some real trouble. School should definitely enforce a very strict policy for such matters. Teachers are professional, and things like that could not only ruin their career, but also their lives.

    • LOL, thanks, Kiltak! You can probably tell from the expertly mixed colors and detailed shading that I worked on it for several seconds.

  2. I totally agree that students should be able to make fun of their superiors, but I think that the MySpace profile does too far. In a society where there are child molesters and pedophiles on MySpace, posing as 15 yr old kids, you can't do that. Is suing going too far? Maybe, but I understand why.

    Of course, people want to push blame to everyone but themselves, which is what the parents problem is.

    Though, the kids are idiots for not making the profile private.

    • I think they presumed that they couldn't be traced. A lot of people on the web think they're anonymous when they aren't.

  3. I totally agree that students should be able to make fun of their superiors, but I think that the MySpace profile does too far. In a society where there are child molesters and pedophiles on MySpace, posing as 15 yr old kids, you can’t do that. Is suing going too far? Maybe, but I understand why.
    Of course, people want to push blame to everyone but themselves, which is what the parents problem is.
    Though, the kids are idiots for not making the profile private.

    • I think they presumed that they couldn’t be traced. A lot of people on the web think they’re anonymous when they aren’t.

  4. Well maybe those parents need to lose "their right to determine how best to raise him." They've obviously been doing a poor job of it.

    I recall hearing that the line between libel and free speech is when you are aware it's a lie and say it anyway. If there is "reasonable doubt" that you might be saying the truth (as in, if you don't know if it's true or not but have cause to believe it's true), it's legal, but if you are simply mudslinging, it's libel.

    • How does parody fit into that? Not saying that the incident under discussion is a case of parody, but what about borderline cases like, say, a comedian playing the role of Bush with a prostitute? Where's the line between what we know to be virtual and what we assume to be real?

  5. Well maybe those parents need to lose “their right to determine how best to raise him.” They’ve obviously been doing a poor job of it.

    I recall hearing that the line between libel and free speech is when you are aware it’s a lie and say it anyway. If there is “reasonable doubt” that you might be saying the truth (as in, if you don’t know if it’s true or not but have cause to believe it’s true), it’s legal, but if you are simply mudslinging, it’s libel.

    • How does parody fit into that? Not saying that the incident under discussion is a case of parody, but what about borderline cases like, say, a comedian playing the role of Bush with a prostitute? Where’s the line between what we know to be virtual and what we assume to be real?

  6. Hey Chip, Nice art! :) You are an artist!

    This is a very delicate matter. As technology evolves, it gives new means to people (Anyone really), to create compromising material out of thin air that could put anyone in some real trouble. School should definitely enforce a very strict policy for such matters. Teachers are professional, and things like that could not only ruin their career, but also their lives.

    • LOL, thanks, Kiltak! You can probably tell from the expertly mixed colors and detailed shading that I worked on it for several seconds.

  7. This is a form of bullying and it shouldn't be tolerated. The accused might claim freedom of speech but the only desired outcome is to embarrass and hurt the feelings of the targeted teacher or administrator. If you believe in these statements so strongly, why don't you walk through the hallways yelling "Mr. Smith molests little boys"? I'm guessing it's because a) you know it's not true and b) you thought you wouldn't possibly be caught by using MySpace. I don't blame the parents for trying to protect their child's academic future but I'm sure they know it's wrong. To a certain extent, kids will be kids, but I'm sure there are many victims of cyber bullies hoping an example is made in this case.

    • Or perhaps they don't go screaming that in the hallways because that would probably get them sent to the principals office very quickly, true or not.

  8. This is a form of bullying and it shouldn’t be tolerated. The accused might claim freedom of speech but the only desired outcome is to embarrass and hurt the feelings of the targeted teacher or administrator. If you believe in these statements so strongly, why don’t you walk through the hallways yelling “Mr. Smith molests little boys”? I’m guessing it’s because a) you know it’s not true and b) you thought you wouldn’t possibly be caught by using MySpace. I don’t blame the parents for trying to protect their child’s academic future but I’m sure they know it’s wrong. To a certain extent, kids will be kids, but I’m sure there are many victims of cyber bullies hoping an example is made in this case.

    • Or perhaps they don’t go screaming that in the hallways because that would probably get them sent to the principals office very quickly, true or not.