In an outrageous misunderstanding of students’ off-campus free speech rights, an Indiana school district expelled a high school senior just three months shy of his graduation for tweeting an F-bomb from home at 2:30 AM.
Austin Carroll says that he sent the offending F-bomb tweet from home, from his own computer. He concedes that he agrees with the district that his tweet was inappropriate, but says he “just did it to be funny.” The Garrett-Keyser-Butler Community School District (the ‘District’) was not amused, claiming that he tweeted from school.
The school says that it reportedly learned about Austin’s tweet when he was online in school.
Even if the tweet was made off campus, it still doesn’t appear to have violated the school district’s “Responsible Use Policy” (the ‘Policy’) that is largely focused on integrating technology into classroom instruction, and making students pay for repairing damaged school notebooks and iPads (read it below).
Here is the District’s Policy:
- He wasn’t plagiarizing someone else’s work to violate the district’s “Act with Integrity” guideline.
- He didn’t “flame, bully, harass or stalk other people” in violation of the district’s “Respect Others” guideline.
- He didn’t violate anyone’s intellectual property rights by tweeting an F-bomb (the authors of the acclaimed “Go the F**k to Sleep” book have not filed suit yet).
- Carroll didn’t visit any Web “sites that are degrading, pornographic, racist, or inappropriate.
- He wasn’t publishing a schedule of his activities or contact information; and
- He didn’t “post personal information about [his] life and experiences” online.
According to Austin: “I don’t think that the school should be looking at [my tweet], because its my own personal [Twitter] account, and it’s not of their business.”
He argues that, “I shouldn’t be getting in trouble for stuff that I did on my own time, on my own computer.”
Gee, that makes plenty of sense.
It is ironic how the District that claims to be preparing “high school graduates…to use multiple technologies upon entrance into the work force and/or higher education,” yet forbids students from “post[ing] personal information about [their] life and experiences” online.
The District’s Policy claims to teach students how to use “collaborative devices and applications” like “such as smart phones and cell phones, wikis, multiuser virtual environments, games and social networks.” How can it do that with such a contradictory Policy in place?
The brouhaha isn’t over, as this video makes clear. Fellow students protested Austin’s ouster, prompting the District to call in local police.
Austin will still graduate, however, but he is now reportedly attending an alternative school.
What do you think about the graduating high school student’s tweet and the District’s decision to expel him?