Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Student Gets Expelled Over Status Update on Facebook

What Not to Post

A teen from Brevard County Florida recently got expelled from school after his principal read his status update on Facebook. Apparently the student ranted about how much he hated his school and raved about how he was going to slit the principal’s throat and laugh while she bled to death. He also stated that he was going to tie all of the teachers up and set them on fire.

Are you kidding me? Did this kid forget that he friended his principal and that she was going to see it? Or did he have total disregard for her and wanted her to read it? Either way this was her response, “Did you know your principal can read this? This is a horrific level of disrespect to our faculty. Death threats are not a joke. Do not even bother coming to school tomorrow. I will be mailing an expulsion letter to your house. You may go to the unified school district office to enroll yourself in another school. The last thing we want to have our students act in your behavior.”

Where Should We Draw the Line?

Okay, so we’ve all vented on Facebook before. I’ll be the first to admit that I was having a bad day yesterday and cursed the summer heat. But to curse at someone and threaten his or her life is out of line and should not be tolerated on Facebook or any other social networking sites. I know that you guys (my classmates) may be a little tired of me posting about etiquette when online, but I think that it should continue to be discussed because time and time again teens and adults alike fail to use common sense when posting.

Some people agree with the principal’s actions, while others feel as though there should be no repercussions for his actions because he’s simply exercising his freedom of speech. Some even argue that since his threat was made on Facebook, a social networking site, that it should not have been taken seriously because it was obvious to everyone that this teen was in no way a threat to his school. They’ve also stated that he should be cut some slack because he’s a kid. I disagree with these statements. I think that users should take responsibility for their actions when posting online.

I came across another story where a young athlete was expelled from school for posting inappropriate material about a teacher. Parents of the athlete used their ignorance of online etiquette as an excuse for such behavior. They didn’t think that anything he posted online would get him into trouble with his school and thought that none of this would have happened if they had been forewarned.

Similar stories such as these pop up everyday and yet nothing changes. I think that both parents and schools should take part in educating the younger generation on using etiquette when posting online.


  1. This is a disturbing story-I think that people do need to use common sense before posting something on any social networking site. It is unfortunate that people have ill will towards others.

  2. Interesting story. I had to dig deep and consider how I felt about it. My initial gut reaction was that the kid got what he deserved. In this post-Columbine era, death threats directed at school faculty (or classmates) cannot be treated lightly. Then the "champion of free speech" part of me took over and I had to consider if expulsion for a post on a social networking site was just. In the end, I think the principal made the right call. I'm not sure if replying directly to the student via Facebook was entirely appropriate because I would hope the student's parents would be notified first, but those threats, whether serious or not, required that action be taken. As we've discussed many times before, both children and adults alike need to be very careful about what they post on social networking sites.

  3. I found this story disturbing as well. Here's the deal...if what this student wrote had been written in a note he handed to a friend in class, the results would have been the same. The excuse that he wrote it on a social media site doesn't fly. The fact is, he wrote it. I don't care that this was written by a teenager or that he may have simply been venting; writing that you are going to slit someone's throat is specific and threatening. Being expelled was the right decision.

    Freedom of speech is important, and the student had the right to put what he wanted on his Facebook page, but learning that freedom comes with certain responsibilities is important as well. I hope this student learns something and isn't just having a vacation from school.

  4. I think you're right, Dina, this student had the right of free speech, and now he is learning that free doesn't mean without consequences.

    And while I absolutely think he should have been expelled, I question the principal's choice to respond online...did she want to keep the conversation public for a reason?

    Two other questions about this case bug me. First, why would a principal friend a teen, and why would a teen friend his principal? Obviously, these two are not "friends."

    Finally, I wonder if/how long this behavior would have been tolerated by his other friends. And if the principal had not seen it, would the consequences have been the same?

  5. Montyne, I agree with you. Though I think that the teen did ultimately deserve his punishment and that the principal was put in a situation where he or she would have to respond, I do not understand why they were Facebook friends in the first place. I think a professional line needs to be drawn for many educators. Students and teachers do NOT need to be Facebook friends in the public school setting. While the university is different and I have greatly benefited from contacting professors on Facebook, high school students do not have the maturity needed to understand boundaries. High school students are not adults and we should not be surprised when they act like the adolescents they are.

  6. I agree with Dina too. The student has the right to Freedom of Speech but needs to learn that certain responsibilities accompany that right. If left unpunished, it would also serve as an example to other students as to what they can get away with online.

  7. I think that the issue of free speech always comes into play over these sorts of issues, however, free speech is not unlimited -- for example, specific threats are not generally considered free speech. And a case in California involving teenagers and online threats was recently upheld by an appellate court that the threats did not fall under the protection of free speech.

    With that said, I would agree that the principal's decision was just but the means were inappropriate, and that high school students and teachers or administrators should not be friends on social sites.

    However, as with most things, the journey begins at home.