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It’s all in the words used

Posted by on Aug 7, 2013 in Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments


Change can be a good thing.

So can responsibility and appropriateness. Add accountability.

Generally, we would also agree cyberbullying – or just bullying – is not a good thing.

However, control in the guise these terms that dictate speech without common definitions and legal framework is not responsible and not appropriate. It is not acceptable. It is not reasonable, another favorite word of control. It is just not acceptable.

And that’s the problem being played out in California’s Lodi School District as debate rages over an imposed social media policy that could remove students from their extracurricular activities for inappropriate expression.

Of course, inappropriate is not defined.

As Bear Creek High’s newspaper editor said, as reported  by the Student Press Law Center, “The district has decided that they are allowed to remove me from my extra-curriculars if they do not approve of my opinions,” Williams’ statement reads. “What vexes me most severely is that this contract is not a threat but an ultimatum: students must choose either their rights or their passions and personality. The district has made some foul errs in the past, but this time, they have gone way too far.”

The SPLC also reports California Senator Leland Yee, who authored legislation protecting student expression, wrote in support of student actions.

“While the problem of cyberbullying must be addressed,” Yee said in the SPLC report, “we must do so in a focused manner.” Yee wrote. “The policy of punishing students for saying anything deemed to be ‘inappropriate’ goes too far in restricting student speech. Policies regarding cyberbullying must be carefully and specifically written.”

Not only should cyberbullying and bullying policies be written precisely, with protecting student expression in mind, so should use of terms like inappropriate, responsible and acceptable.

Part of the solution in Lodi’s situation is what seems to be a board move to involve students in the decision-making process. Enough eyes and minds, from students to board members, from the ACLU and senator Leland Yee, might guarantee the policy is reasonable, appropriate and responsible, all with terms precisely definable and agreeable to all.

That would indeed be meaningful change in the learning process.

See here for more information.


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