ACLU, Education / Schools, Facebook, Free Speech, Kids, Rank Stupidity, Social Media, Social Networking Websites, Technology

When Will We Stop Punishing Children for Being Children?

I really, really hate being the one to defend stupid teenagers who get expelled from school. The ones who are kicked out for cursing online or for other forms of bullying.

Because I was a teenager once — not even that long ago — and I still clearly remember what it feels like to be on the receiving end of horrid teenage evilness. But somehow, I can’t help myself.

So here you go. Keep reading to see why the ACLU is doing the right thing by defending three eighth-grade girls who were expelled for talking about killing people on Facebook

Here is the summary, from the Chicago Tribune:

The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting the expulsion of three eighth-graders in northwest Indiana for what their school said were Facebook comments about which classmates they would most like to kill.

The ACLU filed a complaint Wednesday in federal court in Hammond contending the 14-year-old girls’ freedom of speech was violated when Griffith Public Schools expelled them over a lengthy conversation on Facebook.

According to the complaint, the conversation went from discussing the pain of cutting oneself while shaving to the girls’ friendship, before shifting to which of their classmates they would kill if given the chance.

[Cracks knuckles.] Okay, first, teenage girls are the worst people on the planet, as a generality. I’m sorry ladies, but it’s true. And teenage boys are right behind them. Everybody I know who remembers middle school recalls it as the worst time in their lives. In middle school, no one knows who they are. They are just barely starting to figure it out, all this new hormonal bullsh*t is flying around everywhere and making people crazy, and everybody’s main goal seems to be as awful to everyone else as possible.

But there’s a reason for that: it’s called growing up. Part of becoming an adult is learning to deal with mean people, and people who just suck as humans (I know, as attorneys, many of our readers are intimately familiar with that kind of person). Trying to execute every eighth-grade bully is not going to eliminate adult jerks. It will just make young adults less capable of dealing with them once their mothers or school principals are no longer in charge.

With regards to this specific incident in Indiana, yeah, it’s totally not okay. But you know what is also probably not okay, but that children have been doing FOREVER? Singing demented songs like this:

Joy to the world, my teacher’s dead
I barbecued her head
And where is the body? I flushed it down the potty
And around and around it goes
And around and around it goes

Are these types of songs offensive? Definitely. Are they violent? Duh. How many kids were expelled for singing these borderline canonical American songs? None that I know. And how much do you want to bet that the school administrator who expelled these girls and the mother who gave the Facebook thread to the school sang right along when they were young?

Point is, it is not exactly news that young people say stupid, mean, frequently offensive things. The business of expelling kids from school has become cherry picking, now that schools monitor their students’ Twitter feeds full time, and middle-aged celebrities are celebrated for publicly shaming teenagers who allegedly committed a malicious prank. Because “standing up to bullies” apparently doesn’t mean talking or teaching; it simply means punishing.

But I’m telling you, this will only make the situation worse. And here’s why…

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