Every so often we hear a new story about a student getting suspended / expelled / paddled for some nonsense offense. These days, the disciplinary problems usually are are a result of some alleged electronic misconduct.

A debate usually follows, where people question the legality and general appropriateness of several issues: was the student punished for something he did at school or at home? Was he or she making some kind of threat, whether serious or sarcastic? How much should a school insert itself into its students’ private lives?

Whatever side of those questions you fall on, at least they are valid points to raise. But what about the student who is expelled for a 2:30 a.m. tweet from his home — a tweet that was simply a juvenile exploration on the word “f***”?

You have to be f***ing kidding me.…

Austin Carroll, a high school senior in Garrett, Indiana, was expelled from his local public high school for saying the same things that high school boys (and grown-ups) across the world say thousands of times every day. His fatal mistake was saying it on the internet. From Indiana’s NewsCenter:

“One of my tweets was, BEEP is one of those BEEP words you can BEEP put anywhere in a BEEP sentence and it still BEEP make sense,” said Austin Carroll, student.

Austin was expelled from Garrett High School after tweeting the F-word under his account. The school claims it was done from a school computer. Austin says he did it from home.

“If my account is on my own personal account, I don’t think the school or anybody should be looking at it. Because it’s my own personal stuff and it’s none of their business,” said Carroll.

“I totally didn’t agree with what Austin said but I didn’t agree with an expulsion either. I mean if they suspended him for 3 days or something, I would be fine with that but to kick him out of school, his senior year, 3 months to go, wrong,” said Pam Smith, Austin’s mother.

The principal at Garrett High School claims their system tracks all the tweets on Twitter when a student logs in, meaning even if he did tweet it from home their system could have recognized it when he logged in again at school.

Okay. There’s kind of a lot to digest here. So we will use a bullet list.

  • Why is the principal tracking every students’ Twitter feeds? I’m not sure of the legality of that, but at the least, it is just creepy. I can understand feeling responsible for your student’s well-being, but… blech.
  • I think it’s only a matter of time until Austin’s family sues. Prima facie, this expulsion is ridiculous. Maybe there is important information that the school has not disclosed, but Austin was not threatening anybody, he wasn’t saying anything unethical, or that inferred some sort of academic dishonesty. He told a dirty joke. THAT’S WHAT TEENAGE BOYS DO. Actually, it wasn’t even dirty. It was just 50 percent the f-word. It wasn’t racist, homophobic, or cruel. He was just relishing the potency of dropping a good ol’ F-bomb. The principal at the school monitors twitter feeds, but apparently she has never actually been to the playground or listened to her students talk.
  • As Gizmodo pointed out, the school’s creepy monitoring system doesn’t even work right. If there’s a possibility it doesn’t know where people are sending things from that a) is bad, and b) potentially leaves the school open to legal liability. Because the school could end up making false allegations against students, regardless of what the allegations are.

Putting aside legal implications for a moment, this is another example of schools teaching kids the wrong lessons. Instead of, “Austin, you shouldn’t swear. It’s unprofessional, and it makes you sound like you don’t know English,” (even though almost all the journalists I’ve ever known swear like sailors), I imagine the student now just has a stronger distaste for out-of-touch authority figures.

For the love of Pete, can we please just let kids be kids?

High School Senior Expelled For Tweeting Profanity [Indiana's NewsCenter]
Ludicrous School Expels Student For Swearing On Twitter [Gizmodo]


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