“Scumbag Teachers” merits suspension
Three seniors at George Washington High School in San Francisco were given three-day suspensions for what they wrote on a Tumblr page. Titled “Scumbag Teachers” the students were accused by the principal of cyberbullying. They were also banned from attending their graduation ceremony and the prom. One of the students was also kicked off the student council.
The comments included the following which seems rather innocuous and hardly the stuff of serious bullying: “Teachers Pink Floyd for 3 Weeks: Makes Final Project Due in 3 Days,” and “Nags Student Govt About Being on Task: Lags on Everything.” Do you think either of these comments call for disciplinary action?
A few letters to the right officials brought about a quick resolution. The Asian Law Caucus and the ACLU of Northern California pointed out that the students’ rights were being violated and that their parents weren’t provided due process. The school recognized that they made a mistake and reinstated the students, removed any mention of this incident from their official records and told them they were no longer banned from walking with their class and the prom. One of the comments written by their attorney to the school district was that “Speech does not become ‘disruptive’ just because a teacher doesn’t like it or finds it offensive. . . . In fact, criticism of authority figures is exactly the type of speech the Constitution was designed to protect.”
The students gained support from others on Tumblr. One wrote:
“Find it ironic how Washington led the American Revolution against the British soldiers for freedom from King George, and here you are, sitting in this school trying to control the students the exact same way the king was, by taxing not our goods, but our freedom of speech. Washington himself would be appalled.”
Another wrote: “In school we are going over 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Both are dystopian novels which express a fear of a future in which individual opinions are banned and people live in an authoritarian rule stripped of freedom and self-expression. What is so different from those novels and this situation in this school?”