School District Responds To Social Media Suspensions

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GRANITE CITY, IL. (KTVI) – A freedom of speech violation, or simply school policy?
That question was raised this week after several Granite City High School students were suspended for posting inappropriate, school-related tweets on the popular social network.

One tweet threatened to bomb the school, and the other made sexual comments about a teacher. Many students and parents are unhappy about the suspensions, and some feel the school violated students’ privacy and freedom of speech by combing social networks to find students’ posts.

FOX 2 reached out to Granite City Superintendent Dr. Harry Briggs, who affirmed that school administrators do, in fact, monitor students’ public social network posts on occasion, regardless of whether the comments are posted during or after school hours.   

When these particular tweets were discovered, administrators found both punishable according to the student handbook. The handbook section on “blogging and social websites” reads, in part: Disciplinary action may be taken in response to postings containing threats, bullying, inappropriate pictures, allegations of inappropriate behavior, or such content that is likely to cause disruption in the school.

Briggs hopes the suspensions will teach students to be more aware about what they post online.  However, many feel the out-of-school suspensions went too far, especially for those who re-tweeted or ‘favorited’ the tweets.  

As the controversy remains a hot topic at school, some students feel conflicted about taking a side.  GCHS Senior Michael Pomes explains, “It may be an invasion of privacy, but then again, you’re like, showing the whole entire world exactly what you’re saying. That’s why I don’t like doing twitter; I don’t like showing the world exactly what I’m saying.”

GCHS Junior Austin Comer adds, “Freedom of speech is pretty important right now, but there’s also a limit to what we can say when it comes to public schools and stuff like that.”

Cyber-bullying in recent years is one reason school administrators around the country are cracking down on social media. But as schools continue to navigate the fairly fresh waters of cell phones and the Internet, GCHS Junior Elizabeth Fain hopes administrators will stay more consistent with disciplining what’s said versus what’s posted online.

Fain says she’s heard much worse muttered in the hallways than what was posted on twitter.  She explains, “They get away with it, saying all kinds of things here, and it’s unnecessary for them to go out of proportion and make this a big deal.”

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