The free speech rights of students on social networks and the extent to which they could potentially be punishable by an educational system for what they say online has been cropping up more and more in local news.
Syracuse University recently discussed expelling a student for a Facebook complaint. In Nov. 2011, a Kansas high school senior was forced by her school to apologize, which she refused to do, after she issued a tweet against the state's governor. In January, the Supreme Court ruled Pennsylvania school officials could not punish students for fake MySpace profiles they created of their principals.
These are just a few cases, but here's yet another example out of Garrett, Ind., where a senior has been expelled -- just months before graduation -- for tweeting the F-word. Indiana News Center has more:
"One of my tweets was, BEEP is one of those BEEP words you can BEEP put anywhere in a BEEP sentence and it still BEEP make sense,” said Austin Carroll, student.
Austin was expelled from Garrett High School after tweeting the F-word under his account. The school claims it was done from a school computer. Austin says he did it from home.
"If my account is on my own personal account, I don't think the school or anybody should be looking at it. Because it's my own personal stuff and it's none of their business,” said Carroll.
"I totally didn't agree with what Austin said but I didn't agree with an expulsion either. I mean if they suspended him for 3 days or something, I would be fine with that but to kick him out of school, his senior year, 3 months to go, wrong,” said Pam Smith, Austin’s mother.
According to the report, the school tracks activity conducted on school-owned computers and laptops. But Carroll is saying he didn't use a school computer to post the tweet:
“I didn't post the thing at school but their computer is saying that I did post it, and I shouldn't be getting in trouble for stuff I did on my own time, on my own computer,” said Carroll.
Journal Gazette columnist Frank Gray reports superintendent Dennis Stockdale saying the school wouldn't punish students for things they said online on their own computer and time and off the school's network. The Journal Gazette states that the tweet in question was posted at 2:30 a.m., suggesting it would be outside the school's jurisdiction if Carroll had done so on his own laptop, as he claims.
INC states that Carroll's fellow classmates threatened to protest the expulsion. Watch the local report:
According to the Journal Gazette, Smith believes that previous conflicts including other tweets that were sent from the school laptop may have targeted her son. INC states that Carroll will be finishing the year at an alternative school and will be allowed to graduate. Still, Carroll said he feels he is missing out of activities he would like to participate in, such as prom.