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High School Students, Alumni Face Repercussions for Twitter Account

24 Jul

On July 20, the Student Press Law Center had an interesting report on a Twitter account set up by several students and recent graduates of Worthington High School to gossip about classmates. According to the report, Worthington police said the creators of the account could face charges including terroristic threats, harassment and libel, in addition to discipline from the school. The SPLC has some great commentary on the limits of these potential disciplinary threats. Additional information is available at the Worthington Daily Globe.

Minnesota Supreme Court Says U of M Student’s Rights not Violated by Punishment for Facebook Post

20 Jun

According the Syllabus: “The University of Minnesota did not violate the free speech rights of a student enrolled in the Mortuary Science Program by imposing disciplinary sanctions for Facebook posts that violated academic program rules where the academic program rules were narrowly tailored and directly related to established professional conduct standards.”

I have not read the whole decision yet, but you can read the opinion yourself here. The Void previously reported on the Tatro case here.

***Update***

The Student Press Law Center has some great analysis of the case here.

New Anoka-Hennepin Controversial Topics Proposal

24 Jan

The new proposal takes out the “controversial topics” terminology and instead frames the issue as

Political, religious, social, or economic issues may become contentious in a learning environment in which conflicting views are held by a broad segment of people in our schools, our community, and the nation.

This nicely tautological statement (issues about which there is contention in the community may become contentious issues) is followed by a policy that is non-committal at best:

It is not the District’s role to take positions on these issues. Teachers and educational support staff shall not attempt in the course of their professional duties to persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoint with respect to these issues.

Curricular discussions of such issues shall be appropriate to the maturity and developmental level of students; be of significance to course content; and be presented in an impartial, balanced and objective manner, allowing respectful exchange of varying points of view. Lessons shall be designed to help students think critically and develop decision-making skills and techniques for examining and understanding differing opinions.

In the course of discussions of such issues, district staff shall affirm the dignity and selfworth of all students, regardless of their race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex/gender, marital status, disability, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, age, family care leave status or veteran status.

It seems that as written the policy would not allow a science teacher to argue for the existence of evolution,  a Drama teacher to argue for the value of Tony Kutchner’s work, or a sex ed. teacher to argue for the use of condoms when engaging in premarital sex.  They instead must present these issues “in an impartial, balanced and objective manner.”

The school district is in something of a catch-22.  If it over-defines the issue it ends up making a policy that is specifically offensive to some particular group; if it under-defines the issue, it either ends up with something meaningless or which presents a broad threat to free speech and quality education.

Here at Void, we will be on the edge of our seats waiting for a resolution.

See also: Alternative Proposal