Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Expulsion of Carroll High School student for school year is outrageous

A Carroll High School student was recently expelled for writing a ten page “satire” that was extremely critical of the Carroll High School administration. The student in question has no record of disciplinary problems and was a strong student academically as well as being a member of the student council, band, the political club, future business leaders, and speech team. Outside of school, the student founded The Allen County Teenage Republicans.

There are many options that a school can use to discipline a student who has misbehaved in some fashion; the most extreme is expulsion for the school year. Students who are a threat to the safety of other students or who are continuous discipline problems should be removed from school; however, this student does not fit these criteria.

I find it impossible to understand how a student with no past disciplinary record can be expelled for the school year for writing a ten page “satire,” no matter how offensive it is to the administration.

There are a lot of methods the administration could have used to discipline the student for writing an offensive document on the school computer system. This is more than a free speech issue, because school rules do require considerate behavior from students. So, depending on how insulting or unfair the criticisms were, I suggest that the student be given a written warning, and the student’s parents be required to come to the school and be apprised of the entire situation. If warranted, the student should be required to apologize to those people who he offended. This would be more than sufficient punishment for a first offense.

Instead, the student can no longer attend Carroll High School and cannot be involved with the student activities that he participated in.

I attended the School Board Meeting on January 16th and listened to Carroll High School student Sam Wysong’s statement to The NACS Board. I wholeheartedly agree with his statement that “Expulsion seems like an overreaction to a first-time offender of this nature.” I hope that the school board listened to the statement as well.

I am extremely disturbed by a quote that was printed in a Journal Gazette article written by Kelly Soderlund entitled, “Carroll student expelled for satire” on January 17th. She quoted Superintendent Yager who told her that according to the NACS legal council, “First Amendment rights are not applicable when the violations are committed on school computers.”

I am not a lawyer; however, I have read the Constitution and I think that I have a pretty clear understanding of both what it specifically states and what our Founding Fathers intended. It states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Per NACS procedures, Superintendent Yager still has to approve this expulsion; hopefully, he will over-ride it and investigate why this expulsion occurred in the first place. If Superintendent Yager approves the expulsion, then the School Board will get the same opportunity to review the case.

One of the strengths of this great nation is the freedom of the press and speech. I am a proud military veteran extremely concerned about the constant erosion of our civil liberties. My children will be attending NACS and I will do everything I possibly can to ensure that they attend a strong school system that respects the Constitution.

Mike Sylvester
Candidate for Northwest Allen County School Board

14 comments:

Marie said...

Have you read the piece? Do you understand it was written using school computers and during the school day? Different rules apply. Do you know what kinds of comments where made about other students? Do you think those students have the right to attend school without being harassed by another student's writings on the school computers? Do they have rights? Or do you dismiss their right to privacy because the student expelled was a conservative? What if he was a liberal or Democrat? Would you think it was ok to write harassing comments about conservatives? What about the teachers and staff? Do they have rights to not be harassed by a student? If you think the people criticized in his piece have no rights then I really do suggest you review the constitution. By the way a school can be sued for allowing harassment to go unchecked. Believe it or not harassment is against the law. If your running for school board you may want to brush up on that law.

It will certainly be an interesting case. Like I said on my blog my hope is that all parties will be able to reach an agreement that will satisfy everyone.

best wishes marie

Brandon said...

It definitely appears to be a knee jerk reaction to some offended adults. If the kid is THAT good, maybe the Journal Gazette or the News Sentinel could use him.

Expulsion from a school should be reserved for the most gravest of offenses. If this student were to have offended other students, this wouldn’t be happening, but oh no, he stepped on the toes of the almighty and all knowing school administration. This indeed was a sin above all sins.

Bartleby said...

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ..."

Don't misunderstand me here; I'm not saying that the action taken by NACS is proper, sensible, or reasonable. However, I must ask: Has Congress made a law here, abridging the freedom of speech? If not, the U.S. constitution has not been violated.

If Amendment 1 means that no one can abridge the freedom of speech, then be sure you don't discipline your children, at home, for anything they might say.

bassjones said...

Were it a private school, they can do what they want. This is a government school and the students should be entitled to their Constitutional right to free speech, provided there were no threats made or anything along those lines. They should also be entitled to their right of free religious expression, but that's another issue. I trust this young man's family is taking this to the courts. Normally, I wouldn't approve of lawsuits, but this is the kind of issue that needs to go to the courts.

Jeannette Jaquish said...

The rules of school do not allow free speech. If a child insults or threatens another, or is exceedingly noisy they are corrected. Parents usually approve so this goes unquestioned. Besides attendance is mandatory so, unlike public space such as a park, a student cannot escape the unwanted speech of another at school.
However, words on a paper are not forced upon the ears of another, and in this case the insults were to adults not children. In other words the victims were adults, and able to avoid the speech.
Unless the writing was lies presented as truth, or obscene I think the punishment should be comparable to that given a student who insults another or a teacher at school. Although, unless I can read what this kid wrote, my opinion is very tentative.

Robert Enders said...

Just like in an actual criminal case, there should be some sentencing guidlines. You do not send someone to prison for going 5mph over the limit, nor does a arsonist get 6 months probation.

Is Steve Shine doing anything to back this boy up?

Robert Enders said...

Regarding the free speech aspect of it. The student should be allowed to say anyhting short of "fire" in a crowded theater as long as he says it off school property and does not use school resources.

I have three question:
1. Did he use a school computer?
2. Did he hand it out on school property?
3. If the school insists that the answer to either of the above is "yes", how do they know?

Many student have started to use the Internet as a forum to broadcast their views on teachers and administrators. So as long as this practice takes place off school property, then it should be considered acceptable

bassjones said...

Even if it's on school property it should be acceptable. The tax payers paid for that computer. It is public property and he is entitled to write anything he desires, short of "fire" or making threats.

Scott Greider said...

Is his "book" available anywhere?

Something tells me there might be a little more here than all the hysteria suggests. For instance, maybe he actually typed something that if said outloud and in person to a faculty member would - and should! - get him disciplined. (There's a difference between saying, "The administration is doing a poor job of managing school resources", and "The principle is a @#@&*$ %&?*%\!") Maybe what he wrote was so egregious that it merited skipping straight to the third level.

I mean, even libertarians distinguish between the right of a person on the street to say @*&%#, and the right of a kid in a middle school lunch room to say the same. So that quote from the '69 Supreme Court case can't be bandied about so easily.

Also, he seems like a bright boy; I'm sure he realized the risks. Maybe he even wanted the outcome? I'm just speculating, of course, so I'd love to have more direct info.

Mike Kole said...

They ought to be celebrating the student who crafts a 10-page satire, as a triumph of the system, or at least the creative writing program. Alas, those with thin skins react, and usually badly.

Dave said...

I hope the public outcry is loud and hard enough to have Mr. Fraser reinstated. If it is an election year, the board members should be given notice that this will be a major issue...

Anonymous said...

I doubt he wanted the outcome. He lost a scholarship to Purdue as a result of his expulsion.

Robert Enders said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

If this student’s work was modeled on Jon Stewart’s America, then I suspect it is not expulsion worthy. I assume this student already has representation. I felt like I should pass this along in case he needs it and is unaware of it: Student Press Law Center
http://www.splc.org/
Their blurb: The Student Press Law Center is an advocate for student free-press rights and provides information , advice and legal assistance at no charge to students and the educators who work with them.
It might be worth a shot to talk to someone from that organization.