23 February 2008

Free Speech for the Dumb

I often go to a website called TheSmokingGun.com (TSG for short). It’s a strange site that finds public documents on strange court cases, and also focuses on all sorts of celebrity-related public documents (like Anna Nicole Smith’s autopsy - apparently, there wasn’t any solid food in her stomach). Most of the time, its harmless (albeit strange) fun. It’s an acceptable substitute for the usual Hollywood garbage I like to read. Now, I’m starting to rethink that, because a recent story I saw on there has my blood boiling.
Apparently, the parents of a 13-year-od boy who was expelled from school after making a fake MySpace page for his grade school principal are now suing the school, saying the boy’s free speech rights were violated. This wasn’t a tame website - it was designed to make the principal look as disgusting as possible. Examples of the page (see them at
www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2008/0221081principal1.html) list the “principal’s” interest as molesting students and playing with himself in his office. Underneath the “heroes” section of the page profile, Michael Jackson and Adolf Hitler are listed. In short, this wasn’t tame, especially for a 13-year-old kid to put on the Internet.
The fact the kid got expelled for this doesn’t bother me; in fact, I think it’s perfectly well deserved. The fact the parents are suing over that happening makes me angry. Where’s the discipline in this situation? I’m sorry, but Little Johnny is going to lose what little right he has for free speech if he makes claims so outrageous and falsely offensive. I don’t care what planet you are from. If you are a student at a school, and you make a display as patently obvious as this, you don’t belong there, because you obviously have no respect for people running the place. Little Johnny (I’m going to call him that; as a minor, his real name isn’t included in any of the documents) and his parents seem to disagree. To quote TSG, the parents think “disrespecting teachers outside of school is an age-old tradition, and one from which teachers neither need nor deserve protection...It would be naive to think that even the most popular principal is not the subject of student ridicule and parody." The parents are seeking their son's immediate return to school and a judicial order protecting his off-campus speech, which previously included the observation that Cook had an affinity for the Purple Penetrator, a sex toy.”
So let me get this straight: your son goes out of his way to publicly humiliate the principal of his grade school. He gets expelled, and rather than acting with any sort of dignity, you make the issue an even larger one about “free speech?” This isn’t an issue about free speech - this is an issue about a child being a complete and utter fool when it comes to showing the proper and (sometimes) deserved respect towards authority figures. This isn’t about his rights being stifle; it’s about him being properly disciplined for the same kind of offense that would get him fired from any job under the sun. Students thinking unkind thoughts about their teachers are nothing new, but this isn’t the prairie school house anymore. With the Internet, everyone in the world can hear about these things. Privacy as we know it doesn’t exist anymore. In a way, putting something on the Internet is like unleashing a genie from a bottle: you can let it loose, but you can never fully take it back.
By the way, when our Founding Fathers made free speech a part of the fabric of this country, I think they had something more productive and profound than writing “I like to give anal to the little boys at my school.”

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