Should people be disciplined for harassing Facebook posts? If so, where do you feel the discipline authority should reside? At school? At work? At home? Culpable negligence has some profound implications and I think it’s getting way out of hand!
Author: John Wind, a Martin County resident, is a marketing executive in the telecommunications, digital media and cloud computing industries.
News Posted September 17, 2011 at 4 a.m. TC Palm. Florida’s Treasure Coast and the Palm Beaches. Original story here. http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2011/sep/17/john-wind-when-do-silly-mean-facebook-posts-the/
I am troubled by a recent event at a Martin County high school regarding a student being disciplined and suspended for the nonthreatening (but not very nice) context of a Facebook post that turned into a viral thread of harassing comments about another student (off campus). A few minutes of research, some good old-fashioned constitutional reflections and some very real-world events that are happening in our community caused me to reach out for opinions about what is truly at stake here.
At school: If students post negative or even harassing (nonthreatening) comments on their private, by-invitation-only Facebook profile about a student that attends their same school, should the students involved in the (private) status, comments thread be disciplined by the school directly? Discipline includes detention, suspension and even expulsion.
At work: Or, for that matter, if workers post negative, harassing comments on their private Facebook page about an employee they work with and say that “they don’t trust him/her with money” and that employee happens to work in the accounting department, should the accounting department employee they are posting about be disciplined and/or fired for mistrust?
At worship: How about a parishioner who posts strong, negative feelings about the topic of the worship they recently attended and it includes ill-feelings toward the individual that preached the topic? Should that parishioner be disciplined or expelled from that house of worship?
These very real tactics, laws and rules certainly beg interesting questions don’t they? And if you really think about it, there are some very alarming long-term consequences from a legal precedent standpoint.
Not that I agree with the validity or specific interpretation of these statutes and/or rules as it pertains to our Constitution’s First Amendment rights, by students enrolled in Martin County schools are subject to them. And yes, Florida law supports these “disciplines” and in this case, a school suspension.
I personally feel that educators and administrators are stuck between a rock and a hard place with how these are interpreted and enforced for issues that do not happen either directly on campus or as the direct result of a campus event. In theory but not necessarily in practice, I feel that these are “feel-good” statutes and rules that are very important to us as a society as a whole.
Where the enforcement authority lies with nonthreatening issues, such as a Facebook post (or other friend-to-friend social engagement), does trouble me and I fear that it is a line that is getting stretched way past the intended legislative context for which these laws were enacted.
In any event, I thought I would share the following Web links with anyone with students in these schools so they know what rules they (like it or not) must adhere to.
Jensen Beach High Code of Conduct regarding bullying and harassment: Page 9 and 10 section 51: tinyurl.com/3gl5kfr
Florida legal statute(s) governing same: tinyurl.com/3s3r5nz
Aside from the obvious (people should have some more common sense about what they say or post), where do we draw the line here?