An incident in Indiana raises the question: Should tweeting an F bomb get you kicked out of school?
Austin Carroll is a 17-year-old high school senior in Garrett, Ind., who recently did something so outrageous that it got him expelled from school. He used profanity. On Twitter. Oh my stars and garters! What is the world coming to?
To hear even his own family describe him, Carroll sounds like a bit of a handful. Last month, he earned a suspension for violating the school dress code and wearing a kilt, and last fall, he ran afoul of the school administration for tweeting an F bomb via a school computer.
But Carroll insists his more recent Twitter tirade — which Indiana News Center colorfully quotes as “BEEP is one of those BEEP words you can BEEP use in any BEEP sentence and it still BEEP make sense” – was banged out from his personal account on his home computer. The school district says the post came from a school-issued device or the school’s network. (Both Carroll and the district seem to agree that the post was not directed at any individual or the school itself.)
But students at Carroll’s school are expected to sign a Respectable Use Policy that requires them to “consider the information and images that I post online,” to not “flame, bully, harass or stalk people” or visit sites “that are degrading, pornographic, racist or inappropriate.” There’s no specific limit on word choice, which suggests that the school has now granted itself considerable leeway in interpreting its own rules.
Adding an invasively chilling element to the whole affair is the recent tweet from the Garrett School District’s IT director, who said, “Freedom of speech is our right, but it doesn’t (always) make it appropriate. Think before you type people. #austincarroll.” Because your school is watching you, kids.
It’s true that if more people thought before they typed, the Internet would be a markedly saner place. It’s easy to forget your teachers or your parents might see the words you’re banging out in what feels like perfect solitude. But Carroll wasn’t threatening anyone or deploying hate speech. He was just using some naughty words. He may even have been doing it on his own computer on his own time. And his school appears to have never issued a specific policy on the words in question anyway. So we are left with a kid who will now have to finish out his senior year at a nearby “alternative” school, where at least he can ostensibly wear a kilt and curse on Twitter and nobody will care.
Freedom of speech comes with a price, but the price tag should be appropriate. It’s a school’s job to encourage conversation, to spur kids to question the impact of their language and the effect their actions have, not to scurry away, blushing, from harder questions about expression, personal privacy and the limits of authority. In its Respectable Use Policy, the Garrett school says, with a stunning apparent lack of self-awareness, that “The primary priority of the technology is to improve student learning.” But Carroll and his fellow seniors must be wondering today how attainable that goal really is, when what could have been an authentic teachable moment has been so abruptly shut down.
More Related Stories
- I'm not achieving my dreams!
- The most popular Tumblr porn
- Slave descendants seek equal rights from Cherokee Nation
- Snapchat is secretly storing your photos
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Facebook's hate speech problem
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- When my home was destroyed
- Okla. mother's tearful reunion with her 8-year-old son
- New campaign compares gun control to anti-LGBT discrimination
- Study: Salt Lake City is gay parenting capital of the U.S.
- You are less beautiful than you think
- "Ghetto" tour lets you gawk at New York's poor
- Teen activist to meet with Abercrombie CEO
- Watch: Family emerges from storm shelter after tornado
- Okla. tornado survivor reunited with dog trapped in rubble live on camera
- My miscarriages made me question being pro-choice
- Why I tried to be a punk
- I'm terrified of the cicada onslaught
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
- SAT's right answers are all wrong
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11