Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ohio high school suspends student for poem making fun of the football team; some deja vu for me?

A high school student, Nick Andre, was suspended for several days from Rittman High School, a public high school near Akron and Cleveland, Ohio as well as from the football team, after reading aloud in class his poem critical of (or poking fun at) the high school football team for its 1-7 record. His high school English teacher had made an assignment to write about a matter that made the student angry.
The principal apparently considered the poem a form of “bullying” even though it mentioned no names.  Fox News has a story here.
The conservative site Breitbart published the poem here. It’s hard to see how it would be so offensive, except for “political” reasons. Somehow I’m reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s idea that putting young men into football (and becoming fans) is morally problematic.
In October, 2005, when I was substitute teaching, I was removed from the list at West Potomac High School in Fairfax County near Alexandria, VA after I had mentioned  my website (in reaction to a provocative newspaper story about Internet speech and campaign finance reform) to an intern teacher, when it turned out that the school had apparently already found (from search engines) on the site a fictitious movie screenplay in which a substitute teacher (resembling me) is “set up” by a precocious student under 18.  The intricate details are explained on the July 27, 2007 posting.  The legal scenario is complicated and would itself make for a good movie.  I stopped subbing altogether but did other work for the school district and resumed subbing for a while in 2007. 
School system administrators are very sensitive to student or teacher online speech that they perceive as putting them at risk for provoking some sort of unpredictable incident.  On the other hand, many school districts say they cannot monitor student online activity (like cyberbullying) off-campus unless it is directly about the school or its students. 

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