All you kids with web sites better Watch Your Step or you'll get expelled!

Student expelled for web site parodies of classmates and administrators

Albino florists? Now I’m offended.

Yeah, well, that’s Beaver-town for ya’ …

And this a day after I began updating my website again. I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

Astro, I’ve done some research on your profile/posts. I know where you are.

You have 7 days to live.

See ya!


Now read down to the 17th paragraph of what you posted and tell me if you feel better.

He made a threat against other kids. Plain and simple. Web or paper, it doesn’t matter.


Oh man you’re no fun! I’m bored to tears here, I was getting juiced up for some real astro on pig action! I had already figured out a way to dispose of your body in an environmentally friendly way. Spoilsport!

First off, it was in the context of a satirical website. If Al-Queda and The Onion both told you you had a week to live, which one would you laugh at and which one would you take seriously?

Secondly, how does his personal website created at home have anything to do with his school life? What gives them the right to suspend him for something totally detached from school? If they were worried or concerned then they should have talked to him and his parents.

If they really thought he was serious then suspension would probably piss him off worse, if not then why did they feel the need to punish him?

Well, since the internet is a broadcast medium and that it’s reach is worldwide, “personal” and “at home” cease to apply to his web site. It’s not much different than if you wrote an editorial in a newspaper that says, quite publicly, Principal Skinner is a fat, gay loser! And that mediocre jerk Timmy has only got one week to live – guranteed!

So technically he probably could be sued for libel and charged with uttering threats if his web page could conceivably be taken seriously by a reasonable person. It’s hard to say now that the website has come down.

In any case, if you’re publishing anything (disseminating it to the general public) you’re going to end up taking responsibility for it. Your freedom of speech is protected, but even recognized satirical magazines like the Onion have to use some discretion or risk libel.

The kid should have been suspended unless there seemed to be a genuine threat of violence. School officials may have overreacted, but with so many “zero-tolerance” policies in effect, it’s not surprising.

The Onion.

I’ve been threatening to conquer the world for years in every medium I could find.

I guess I’m just too smart for The Man.

Nah. They just know about you already and have decided you’re “mostly harmless.”

All that work for nothing …

Frankly, I think he sounds like an arrogant little rich kid. He seems to think he can say whatever he wants when he want [and at 13, you really can’t - especially in a school building.] I teach high school. I used to have a student who would on occation sit in my class and write in a journal “I hate these people. I wish they’d all die. They will all die.” Even though that journal is “private”, it still can have that student suspended for threatening.
Maybe he doesn’t get into magnet schools - but it’s because he’s a behavioral problem; he feels that he is above the code of appropriate 13 year old behavior. And they are WELL within their rights to deny him access. Now, his parents are validating his behavior by screaming that he’s been treated unfairly. His first amendment rights aren’t the issue. He violated school policy. Pure and simple. They are all about zero tolerance, especially to a kid who seems without remorse.

Just in case it isn’t obvious, I’m against parents supporting their kids bad decisions - he needs to learn that actions have consequences. And this is one of them. Besides, who was watching this kid? Shouldn’t someone edit what goes out on the internet by his hand?

So, the Constitution gets thrown out the window because you go to school? And school policy covers what one does at home these days too?

Private computer, at home…Ummm…why shouldn’t the First Amendment count? Isn’t this a prime example of what it is trying to protect us against?


The Internet is not “private.” Once you post it on the Internet you are disseminating it to the general public – that is “broadcasting” or “publishing”. No different than libel in a newspaper or slander on the radio.

The First Amendment is unaffected. He is free to voice his opinion. If his page included untrue statements that were defamatory and/or threats, then he can still get into doo-doo.

If I decided to broadcast a radio program from my basement and said “Tomcat eats worms and will be killed by next week.” You could haul my butt into civil court for damaging your reputation (you worm-eater, you!) and if you are a reasonable person who feels threatened by what I said, you could pursue charges as well for “uttering threats” or whatever legal equivalent there may be. I’m allowed to voice an opinion and say “I think Tomcat looks like a worm-eater!” but if I lie and say “Tomcat is a worm-eater!” I won’t go to jail, but would be liable for damages.

Satirical magazines and cartoons etc. do still take some precautions to make sure it’s very, very clear that it’s intentions are satrical and do try to avoid confusing “fact” with “opinion and criticism” so that any reasonable person could recognize it as a joke and nothing more. Then just to be sure, they usually add a disclaimer that says “this is a JOKE ha-ha, don’t take it seriously.”

If the kid hadn’t uploaded it and had just kept in on his hard drive for his own amusement, he wouldn’t be in trouble. Because then i would have been “private” and “only on a home computer.” Once you “publish” you have to choose your words a little more carefully.

As it is, he’s probably guilty of being terribly naive. The school could have handled it differently, perhaps with a suspension and regular visits to the counselor (just to make sure he wasn’t harbouring any genuine hostility.) He was naughty with his public ridicule, but expulsion was a little severe (not surprising, but severe).

Well, if he damaged someones reputation, they can sue him. If he threatened someone, they can file charges against him. None of this is any of the schools business. If it happened in class, sure, but after school on his on computer, the school has no right to get involved.

Do you believe that the First Amendment protects threats of bodily harm? Or libelous statements?

  • Rick

But it’s not just on his own computer. That is the point. It was publicly broadcast to the world in its entirety. That is the definition of libel.

If I go on TV and say “I’m going to beat the crap out of Ronald McDonald, that floppy-footed, bunny-felching poopyhead” McDonald’s is well within their right to deny me entry to their restaurant and ban me from all their properties. It’s doesn’t matter that I wasn’t on McDonald’s property at the time I made the threat and called him a poopyhead. So I was standing on my front lawn when the TV guys filmed me – big deal! You can’t say it “just happened on your front lawn.” I still publicly threatened him and lied about him felching bunnies. It was broadcast on TV for the entire world to see if they tuned in.

That’s why the kid is in trouble. Technically they could press charges and sue, which would be even worse for the kid. Instead, they just said “stay away.”

He was naive and probably didn’t know any better. They should have counselled him about why “public defamation is wrong, even if it’s accidental.” Do I think he shoud have been expelled? No. That was overkill. He just made a mistake and needed to be educated so he wouldn’t do it again.

Overkill? Lesse…

So, he violated the school’s & district’s policies, and they expelled him. Sounds like reasonable consequences for destructive behavior. Which, ideally, would be the NORMAL way a kid becomes “educated so he wouldn’t do it again”.

But no. In modern America you don’t necessarily HAVE to face the consequences of your (or your brat-child’s) bad behavior. NOW you can sue the punishers because you feel your punishment was too harsh. And you can go after more money because the punishment inflicted upon you “pain, suffering and embarrassment”.

Oh, no. We don’t need tort reform…:smack:
Tomcat: Um, I’m fairly certain that the SCOTUS has ruled that the Bill of Rights doesn’t automatically apply to minors & school activities. School newspapers don’t automatically have the protection of the First Amendment, and administrators need neither warrant nor probable cause to search any student’s locker.

[sub](Wasn’t this discussed on GD a few weeks ago?)[/sub]