Wednesday, September 19, 2007


These are the kinds of things schools do these days that make me mad.

A high school girl, after battling with school officials to get a concert planned, called her school administrators "douchbags" [sic] on her blog after the concert was canceled. She had had the brilliance to contact her community and ask for their assistance in getting the concert held at a school auditorium--since the taxpayers own the school property. Smart girl. Principal gets pissed, girl writes "douchbag" on her own blog, school finds out and disciplines the girl, parents sue--and the courts decide in favor of the school. (This is in a very small nutshell--for a nice outline of the events as they occurred, go here.)

But on Aug. 31, Judge Mark Kravitz ruled with the administration, reasoning that since Doninger wrote something on a Web site that could be read by people at school, that's essentially the same as if she'd stood up in class and shouted it.

Errr? The judge soooo did not come to that conclusion by anything like reasoning.

Those government arms are getting longer all the time. The poor little principal got mad because she was hammered with emails and phone calls. She pulled the concert. (In fairness, the school administration was not interviewed for the piece as the court case is still ongoing.) The girl gets mad of course and calls them a name on her own private blog. HER PROPERTY.

She called them a name. She did not go to school with a gun or even threaten violence. She called them a name on her own personal blog and they were able to use that against her.

Via ODonnellWeb, one of my new favorite blogs


COD said...

Via ODonnellWeb, one of my new favorite blogs

Can I quote you on that? :)


Rational Jenn said...

Of course! I've added you to my BlogRoll too. You're welcome!

softwareNerd said...

Would a private school be justified in discipline (say, light discipline) if they learnt that a student had cursed the principle in some other public forum?

Anonymous said...

Softwarenerd, here is what I think on that:

...only in the sense that is was covered by the contract between parent, school, and student -- namely the code of conduct. And then only to the extent that the code of conduct/contract could be deemed reasonable. If not covered in some way I suppose then there would be room for interpretation. In the end I would hope the school would recognize the student's right to free speech and the fact that the Internet is not their property (nor any other public forum) despite it coming into their school, and such they do not have, for lack of a better word, jurisdiction in any way.

If the school felt it was necessary, they could possibly revise their code of conduct accordingly in order to avoid such conflicts in the future.

-- Marnee

Rational Jenn said...

SoftwareNerd, interesting question. I mulled it over today and pretty much came to the same conclusion as Marnee. In a private school, there would ideally be some kind of written, agreed upon code of conduct that would specify how such situations are handled.

If I was a parent or a student considering attending a school with a very restrictive policy--thou shalt not insult the administration on MySpace--I'd find a different school.

The law that the court in the article used to justify the ruling was written before there was an internet, according to the article. Clearly (and of course assuming that all information in the article can be taken at face value), standing in the crowded school hallways shouting "Screw You!" to the teacher is different than calling them a name on your blog from your computer at home. It baffles me--of course, I'm no lawyer either--how this judge could have drawn this comparison. There could be more to this than was reported and I'll be on the lookout for more or contradictory information on this story.

Should the student have known this would get her in trouble? I don't see how, unless similar situations had already occurred in that school. Of course she should be aware that public blog pages are out there for the world to see, but under the same circumstances I would not have questioned my right to express my thoughts on MY blog.

And as far as I can tell, douchebag seems to be a pretty accurate description!