In The News: Student’s FB Insult Triggers First Amendment Clash

As reported by Corey Johnson at California Watch, a 15yo sophomore at Mesa Verde High “will never look at the share button” the same way again. The teen used his FB profile to vent – and share – frustration about his biology teach, using creative language in a way that only a teen can.

Specifically, the teen stated that the teacher was a “fat a** who should stop eating fast food, and is a douche bag.”

The result? The school district staff urged suspension under the state’s new cyberbullying law – and sparked a debate with the teen’s parent who called in the ACLU. They argued that teen venting on FB is not the same as cyberbullying. The ACLU autorney representing the family, points out that “virtual world speech” has the same protections under the First Amendment as “real world speech,” and that “you don’t shed your free speech rights by going on Facebook.”

What do you think? Is the teen in this case guilty of cyberbullying? Or, was he simply exercising his right to free – albeit rude – speech?

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About Kelly Baig

Kelly Baig is a concerned parent of a 13 yo girl and independent marketing consultant with insatiable curiousity about all things online. Kelly runs a successful marketing services firm, WaveBreak Marketing, in operation since 2007. Kelly has over 20 years of experience in B2B marketing, including social media and online communications for clients primarily in high-tech. In her spare time, Kelly can be found training for the triathlon at her local Y, knitting, walking her two Yorkies, and trying to learn how to cook Indian food for her husband.

2 thoughts on “In The News: Student’s FB Insult Triggers First Amendment Clash

  1. It’s funny that I am compelled to leave a comment on a site that I’m also an author on….but this news story struck a nerve with me.

    There is a very fuzzy line between rudeness and bullying. One of the things that I find so interesting about this case is that the comment, while obviously rude, doesn’t seem like bullying as I envision it.

    That said, I’m left wondering…. would that kid have said those words to the teacher’s face if he saw that teacher outside of school? I think he probably would not. Therein lies the problem in my opinion. Typing something online needs to be thought of as addressing people in person. My personal rule of thumb is “If I wouldn’t say it to their face, I’m not going to type it out”. I realize I have the benefit of years of experience though, whereas teenagers do not.

    An interesting debate indeed!

  2. Can a minor commit cyberbullying against an adult? Perhaps. Can a student commit cyberbullying against a teacher? Maybe but boy it would have to be rough.

    Can the adult not separate what should bother them from what should not? I am sure this is not the first time that a teacher and maybe even that specific teacher, had something unkind said by a student. Seriously, if an adult cannot mentally deal with a comment from a 15 year old they might need serious help. This situation gives the teacher an excellent chance to have a meeting with the student and watch them squirm.

    I think the big problem here in this case might be the “zero tolerance” policy of the school. Many schools have zero tolerance policies that go a bit far. Heck my son gets suspended if he says bomb at school. What happens when they study any war in history class?

    Blanket policies at schools are almost always a bad idea (excepting weapons). Just about everything should be considered on a case by case basis. I understand this is less convenient for the powers that be, but seriously, the facts will bear themselves out.

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