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Student Expelled From Indiana High School For Tweeting Profanity 349

Posted by timothy
from the language-you've-probably-heard-from-your-boss dept.
First time accepted submitter OopsIDied writes with the story that high-school senior Austin Carroll of Garrett, Indiana was recently expelled after tweeting profanity from his own home, writing "Supposedly the school has a system which tracks students' social networks after they have logged in at school. Although the tweet was done at home at 2 AM, the school decided that such behavior was unacceptable and that the most fitting punishment was expulsion. He did use a school computer, but it was set up to use the school network even when used outside the school because the school claimed the tweet was associated with the school's IP address." As usual, TechDirt has some biting commentary about the expulsion. But Hey, at least they didn't throw him in jail.
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Student Expelled From Indiana High School For Tweeting Profanity

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  • It's their network (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cpu6502 (1960974) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:38AM (#39510521)

    They can enforce the rules as they wish (just like employers). Student should have used a private ISP, instead of the government-owned school network.

    • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:42AM (#39510571) Journal

      They can enforce the rules as they wish (just like employers). Student should have used a private ISP, instead of the government-owned school network.

      Perhaps. But should a high school student have been expected to know this?

      Maybe they should have opted for jailing him for life. After all, isn't tweeting "fuck" an incitement to the masses to commit rape?

      • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:45AM (#39510621)

        Yes a student should know not to use profanity on the school network, just as he knows not to use it in the school building. (IMHO)

        • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@cGINSBERGarpanet.net minus poet> on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:48AM (#39510687) Homepage

          You are sidestepping the real question though. He should know not to use it on the school network (whatever profanity is.... silly concept anyway) but... is it right to expect him to know that he is, indeed, on the school network vs home. Clearly he has a home internet connection.

          I mean, for me with work, its easy. I am either connected to the VPN or not, and if I am, then its all through their netowork... but I do this shit for a living...I am not even sure if people outside of the IT department understand this.... but... a HS kid is expected to?

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:36AM (#39511589)
            Phone 260.357.4114 press 3 for the principle's office
          • by KhabaLox (1906148)

            .I am not even sure if people outside of the IT department understand this.... but... a HS kid is expected to?

            I'd wager a HS student is *more* likely to understand it then the average non-IT adult.

          • by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @01:00PM (#39512867)
            The real issue is the profanity, not what he did. If the headline had read "school expels student for swearing in class" there would be no technological boogie man to focus attention on. There would only be the issue itself: a student is being denied an education because he used a word the principal didn't like.
        • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:54AM (#39510793) Journal

          Yes a student should know not to use profanity on the school network, just as he knows not to use it in the school building. (IMHO)

          Did you RTFA? He connected to his home ISP, but the computer automatically connected him to the school's VPN. So, at the risk of repeating myself, should a high school student have been expected to know/spot this?

          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            No I RTFS - "He did use a school computer".

            • by idontgno (624372)

              At 2:30 in the morning. So, he was actually expelled for unprovable breaking and entering.

              The VPN theory is the only one that makes any damn sense. And that's unfortunate. Why would you set up a VPN that effectively takes over your computer? Or alternately, if you deliberately choose to VPN to the school network at 2:30 AM, why would you even fantasizes that "I did it from home" would even matter? If you VPN in, you're now a part of the school network and you choose to extend their rules to your computer fo

              • by KhabaLox (1906148) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:05PM (#39511975)

                Why would you set up a VPN that effectively takes over your computer?

                To make sure that any traffic sent to or from said computer routes through your network so that you can monitor it.

                Now, I can understand this on a certain level (e.g. to prevent students from visiting porn sites or spam/virus sites). But it seems what's going on in this case is that the school is looking at packets or URLs to link students to social networking accounts, and then monitoring those accounts for illicit content. That's a bit more intrusive. Of course, there is plenty of precedent for restricting students rights both on and off campus, but actively monitoring (or logging) students "private" online communication seems a bit much. What's their policy on data retention? Do they stop monitoring Twitter accounts when the student graduates?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Moses48 (1849872)

            If I bring my work laptop home, I sure as hell am not going to do anything on it that I wouldn't do at work. I know it doesn't automatically VPN into work, but it's still my work computer and should be used for work purposes. If the student has a school computer that should only be used for school purposes, that is fine. I still think the punishment for cussing is ludicrous.

        • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:24AM (#39511377)

          Yes a student should know not to use profanity on the school network, just as he knows not to use it in the school building. (IMHO)

          Because, heretofore, using four letter words at school was an unheard of atrocity that would have surprised even dear old mom, right?

          Come on. I think I learned the f-bomb well before second grade. He wasn't selling drugs, carrying weapons, threatening a teacher, or being a repeat offender of general delinquency. He didn't even do it at school so you can't argue he was disrupting class. Expulsion is way over the top, this is worth a letter home to mom and dad, with the exact text of his message included.

          The most extreme, maybe they should sue him for stealing George Carlin's material.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      He did use a private ISP, it sounds like his school-provided computer just logs him into the school VPN every time it's on the internet, routing through all traffic. Besides, public schools are a branch of the government, and thus shouldn't have the right to circumvent the First Amendment.
    • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:44AM (#39510607)

      He fucking did fucking use his fucking home network as you would fucking know if you had just fucking read the fucking article about his fucking post containing fucking lots of use of the fucking word fucking.

      First amendment indeed.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      their network or not it's still illegal interception of communications. same goes for employers by the way even if you fat bastards at IT-support don't seem to know it since it would make your job a hassle.

    • by ClintJCL (264898)
      If it's government owned, it's public, and the 1st amendment applies. You defeated your own argument pretty effectively there.
      • by Krojack (575051)
        My thoughts exactly. If this is a public school then the network technically is paid for by the tax payers including this kids parents. If this is a private school then all bets are off and they could get away with this. Either way this kid needs to raise hell, after all he's a senior and about 1 1/2 - 2 months away from graduating. This could really screw him over.
    • by residieu (577863) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:53AM (#39510777)

      He says he tweeted on "his own computer", and it was 2am so it seems likely it would have been on the school's network.

      What it sounds like is he logged into his twitter account later when he was on the school network. The school scanned his twitter feed and found his astute observation about the word fuck.

      • by dintech (998802)

        I wonder if he watched a recital of Evidently Chickentown [youtube.com]? It's a song/poem about living in deprivation in the council estates (projects) of the UK.

        The fucking cops are fucking keen
        To fucking keep it fucking clean
        The fucking chief's a fucking swine
        Who fucking draws a fucking line
        At fucking fun and fucking games
        The fucking kids he fucking blames
        Are nowehere to be fucking found
        Anywhere in Chickentown

        The fucking scene is fucking sad
        The fucking news is fucking bad
        The fucking weed is fucking turf
        The fucking spee

    • Expulsion though is very overboard. Back in my Days If a Kid got caught speaking profanity. They Usually got a stern talking to, perhaps detention. If they Mouthed off to a teacher or an other adult they would get detention to 1-2 days of suspension. Expulsion was reserved for kids who have been considered too dangerous to be in school.
    • They can enforce the rules as they wish (just like employers). Student should have used a private ISP, instead of the government-owned school network.

      Three things:
      1) He did not use the Schools network, he was at home and on his own computer. The school has a system that audits a student's Twitter Account any time they log in at the school. He made the Tweet at 2 AM from home. Then next day when he logged in to twitter at home, the school's system checked the account, found a tweet in it that it didnt like, and set off the alarms.

      2)This was settled in the 1969 decision Tinker v. Des Moines, when some kids were suspend for wearing black armbands to

  • by residieu (577863) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:39AM (#39510525)
    Sounds like the school is really behind. They need to get themselves in gear and expel the 90% of the student body that says "fuck" on a daily basis in the halls, in the cafeteria and on the buses.
    • No... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:42AM (#39510577)

      Using profanity in the halls, cafeteria, and buses is safe, because such incidents are not visible to parents, school board members, or the general public.

      Twitter, however, is visible to the whole world, so anything undesirable must be just as visibly punished.

      • +1 insightful (if I had the points). I suspect this actually is behind a lot of these excessive punishments for more or less innocent tweets. Only one thing worse than public profanity, and that's a parent complaining about said public profanity. If a parent had actually complained, the school would probably have filed criminal charges (for hacking, child porn or an equally scary, misunderstood and misused crime) against the student.
      • Re:No... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Roger W Moore (538166) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @02:41PM (#39514313) Journal

        Twitter, however, is visible to the whole world, so anything undesirable must be just as visibly punished.

        Correct - so when did the punishment for swearing become expulsion? They are a school after all - don't they have a duty to educate? Require a public apology (via the same medium) and a publicly visible punishment like picking up litter from the school grounds. That sends the message, both to the pupil and the student body, that swearing is not tolerated and that rules are enforced. Expelling him for a minor offence like this sends the message that the school is vindictive and unreasonable and it completely undermines any moral authority they have.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      this gives me an idea for a device that would use speech recognition to detect profanities.
      it could be an android pda in a box, rigged with a flashing light and a siren that would go off if they detected a profanity.

      then the school would need those every 5 meters. think of the MONEY.. err children.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:24AM (#39511389)

      Twitter and facebook are not really private (unless you specifically block viewing by strangers). It's a public venue and what you post can be seen by your school (as this article shows). Or google.

      BTW the school that was spying on students stripping naked in their bedrooms through laptop cameras never got punished. Nor the school with cameras in the boys/girls shower rooms. Hiring the ACLU to sue this school is like a waste; looking at public tweets is a far lesser crime.

  • On the one hand, i've said it over and over again, giving punishments for writing on the bathroom stall door (aka twitter) is stupid. Will always and forever be stupid.
    However, if he used the school's network/computer to do such, I can kind of see some punishment is appropriate.
    I think expulsion was a bit much, some detention would have been just fine, but ahh well.
    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      Well if the school ran a network connection to his house that he used at 2:30 AM, sure.

    • They are punishing them because they wrote on somebody else's bathroom wall with there permission, but used a tool provided by the school. They did it on there own time. I would have to side with it's unreasonable for the school to punish a student for what they do away from school, as that's undermining the role of the parent and they do not show that it was causing a disruption in the school. Last I checked profanity was not illegal and generally protected speech. Past that expulsion is a HUGE amount

      • by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:24AM (#39511379)

        Last I checked profanity was not illegal and generally protected speech.

        You surrender a lot of rights when you enter a school. He was only there virtually, but he was using the school's network none the less.
        On top of that, yes you have free speech, but there are still consequences. I can't run into a crowded theater and yell "FIRE" and expect to get away scott free.

        schools are not the place for indoctrination of any sort

        You're kidding, right? The whole point of the American school is to turn you into a boring, uncreative, mindless drone.
        If that doesn't qualify as indoctrination, what does? |:

        • Using a expletive as a means of emphasis is far far away from crying fire. I think my point is were loosing more and more rights etc when you enter a public school, and that's inherently broken since the majority are forced to send there children there. Again with indoctrination it's not supposed to be the reason for them existing and people need to push that to not happen.

          Personally I've chosen private school for my child, good contracts and reasonable staff seem to make for better schooling. Perhaps it'

  • Unfortunately, there seems to be an increasing frequency of reports of punishments for online posting. The precedent has been set, and there's no rioting against it. It seems rediculous to me, but this is going to continue for some time until some lawsuit strikes it down.

    • by oracleguy01 (1381327) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:47AM (#39510663)

      Actually this is interesting, the school has clearly established the punishment for doing this. So the easy way to protest this would be get a sizable percentage of the student body to swear on their twitter accounts. What is the school going to do? Expel 30+% of their student body? If they did, it would make national headlines and the people that run that school would become a laughing stock. It would also energize the debate enough where we could finally sort this out. And if they don't expel them, they can't expel this student.

      • by Baloroth (2370816)
        Be very, very careful when pulling a "they can't punish everyone" stunt. Sometimes it turns out that yes, they very much can.
        • by TheSpoom (715771)

          In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they used the opportunity to expel their low-scoring students, simultaneously increasing their federal budget due to federal test-marks-for-dollars guidelines and lowering their costs due to having less students to serve.

          • by gknoy (899301)

            If they were to choose to enforce it nonuniformly, when it clearly was something that everyone was violating, I expect that some of the people expelled might make a compelling discrimination suit.

          • They probably wouldn't be able to lower their operating costs as most of them are fairly fixed (i.e. building, power, heat, cooling, salaries for staff, and staff benefits) so if a large fraction were expelled over this then their funding source would dry up (money based off the the number of student days) and they couldn't correct for it until the next school year. This really would hurt the school.
        • Schools can't really expel a lot of students because the state funding formulas are by student-days - the number of students attending the school. If they expelled a significant number of schools their funding would be cut noticeably. Poor things.

    • It's not just the fact that he was punished for posting something that makes it seem idiotic to me. It's the fact that their reasons are always extremely petty. "Profanity." "Swear words." "Someone could get offended!"

      Who cares? Are you seriously so oversensitive that you cannot handle the mere mention of a word?

  • Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by webheaded (997188) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:44AM (#39510609) Homepage
    All issues of who own what aside, honestly, who gives a fuck what the kid said unless it was like...death threats? Seriously...why would you expel someone for using profanity in the first place? A stern talking to, perhaps, but expulsion for this? Good lord.
  • Good life lesson (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285)
    Better that he learn this now as opposed to when he has a well paying job. When using equipment that is not yours, you have to follow their rules. This is the same when you borrow your parent car, or your friends pad for an overnight stay.

    Schools loaning computers are still a relatively uncommon thing. These kids are being given an opportunity to learn to use a tool that will greatly increase their future opportunities. Encouraging the kids to use it wisely is a good thing. How many reports have we s

    • by tnk1 (899206) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:02AM (#39510967)

      That said expulsion might seem a bit harsh, but we really don't know what else this kid has done or not done.

      This.

      In my mind, expulsion for this is the right punishment only if the student has a long record of other issues, including a suspension or maybe two. If so, I think it would be okay to expel him for even just spitting on the school sidewalk. If not, this is a ridiculous and difficult to understand result from a public school. Hell, I doubt even private schools are this punitive.

      Swearing is bad manners and should be discouraged as a way of maintaining order and courtesy, but as far as I know, it has never impeded the learning of anyone or those around them. I sincerely hope this isn't some over-the-top punishment, and is instead, a measured reaction to a chain of incidents.

    • Yeah, I get your point.

      But even in a corporate environment, you're probably not going to get fired for a single arguably offensive tweet. There are probably better ways to teach kids that lesson than expelling them.

  • R I D I C U L O U S

  • by pbscoop (2606071) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:53AM (#39510781)
    Of educators, lawmakers having no idea what the internet is. "Hmm, since he said it from our address, it's like he's speaking for the school. The whole internet is going to thing we use bad language. It reflects poorly on me!"
  • Oblig (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cobralisk (666114) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:56AM (#39510857)
    I'm sure you've all heard this before, but it bears repeating here:

    Perhaps one of the most interesting words in the English language today, is the word fuck. Out of all the English words that begin with the letter 'f' ...fuck is the only word referred to as 'the f word... It's the one magical word. Just by its sound can describe pain, pleasure, hate and love. Fuck, as most words in the English language is derived from German ...the word fuieken, which means to strike.

    In English, fuck falls into many grammatical categories:

    As a transitive verb for instance.. John fucked Shirley.
    As an intransitive verb... Shirley fucks.

    Its meaning is not always sexual, it can be used as...

    An adjective such as... John's doing all the fucking work.
    As part of an adverb... Shirley talks too fucking much.
    As an adverb enhancing an adjective... Shirley is fucking beautiful.
    As a noun... I don't give a fuck.
    As part of a word... absofuckinglutely -or- infuckingcredible.
    And as almost every word in a sentence... Fuck the fucking fuckers.

    As you must realize, there aren't too many words with the versatility of fuck...such as these examples describing situations such as:

    Fraud: I got fucked at the used car lot.
    Dismay: ahhh fuck it.
    Trouble: I guess I'm really fucked now.
    Aggression: Don't fuck with me buddy.
    Difficulty: I don't understand this fucking question.
    Inquiry: Who the fuck was that?
    Dissatisfaction: I don't like what the fuck is going on here.
    Incompetence: He's a fuck-off.
    Dismissal: Why don't you go outside and play hide and go fuck yourself...

    I'm sure you can think of many more examples.

    With all these multi-purpose applications, how can anyone be offended when you use the word. We say use this unique, flexible word more often in your daily speech.

    It will identify the quality of your character immediately.

    Say it loudly and proudly: FUCK YOU!
  • When you use your company laptop or company phone, all bets are off w.r.t. freedom of speech and privacy. Even if its on your own time and/or off company property.

    So lets leave those company phones and laptops at work after quitting time. And bring your own phone for use during lunch breaks. If they need to contact you 24x7, they can pay you 24x7, time and a half after 40 hours, of course.

    This kid got a tough lesson. But at least he didn't lose a job over it.

    • Expelling a child does impact them later in life more than being fired.

    • If you give up the expectation of privacy, then there will be no consequences for invading your privacy and then you really won't have any privacy. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Remember kids, wiretap laws and the Bill of Rights don't apply to you when you're enrolled in school.

    Anyone agreeing with the school here really needs to read TFA (specifically the TechDirt article). Apparently he Tweeted while at home, and the school had a system set up that tracked all Twitter logins, recording all Tweets on those accounts. The kid must have logged in subsequently to posting the Tweet, and their spy system picked it up.

    I mean, what the fuck. The school is literally spying on its students' private accounts. I bet their system picked up Direct Messages too, all in the name of anti-bullying. I really hope this kid calls the ACLU and gets this shut the hell down. This is a huge violation of his and the other students' rights. If he had posted the Tweet from the school it may have been slightly different but still an overreaction. This is outright wiretapping, unauthorized use of an account, a declaration that students' private lives are subject to the school's rules... what the hell is going on here?

    • According to the article, the student was at home when he tweeted. The school just put him on a watch list because he used twitter once or twice on a school network. This does not grant the school the right to spy on him after hours. My guess is the courts are going to get involved and whomever was involved in the expulsion will have their hands slapped and this extra spying system taken down. The bottom line is, as a society, we live in WAY too much fear. Since we live in fear, we look to governing bo
  • Had he said the same thing in the hallway, at worst he'd have been told to shut up.

    But because he "spoke" through a computer, he deserves explulsion?

    The school's policies are seriously screwed up.

    Sorry, in the vernacular of the students, "seriously FUCKED up!"

  • by bmo (77928) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:16AM (#39511219)

    ...and stories like the assistant principal at a Lower Merion PA school district spying through the webcam on student issued laptops (remember that?), I have to say one thing about student-issued laptops:

    Laptops are cheap enough. Use your own. Treat the school issued one as toxic. Refuse it.

    They are simply too dangerous to even turn on.

    And those in authority wonder why they are distrusted.

    --
    BMO

  • by buddyglass (925859)
    School's computer = school gets to set policy. Violate policy = school infraction. If my employer gives me a laptop and I VPN in then post obscene crap on Twitter, I'm not sure I'd feel justified in complaining if they fired me. Assuming the policy was written down and provided to me beforehand.
  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:28AM (#39511457)
    T(source)FA implies he used a school computer, on his own time, to tweet; and the school's tracking software flagged his tweet. If that's the case, TechDirt's fee speech argument falls apart - the school did not prevent him from tweeting, just punished him for using their equipment to do something that violated their rules; not unlike yelling the same thing out of a bus would get you in trouble. Is the punishment unreasonable? I would argue it is; unless of course anyone who utters a profanity on school property is similarly punished; even then i would find it excessive. However, using school equipment leaves him open to punishment by the school.

    Now, if as per HuffPost, he did it on his own time using his own equipment; then the school is way out of line.

  • Didn't we just have a news item about offensive speech [slashdot.org]?

    I can see being upset about speech that causes actual damage, such as promoting drug use, bullying another student, provoking specific violence ("I'm going to kill you tomorrow, Danny") or posting private information.

    Offensive speech? Obscenities? It's a stupid idea to start regulating this stuff, as there will be a lot of it.

  • by chad.koehler (859648) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:54AM (#39511831)
    As someone who has dealt with the enormity of school idiocy, let me just state that a quick call to the family lawyer will get all this straightened right out.  If threatened with a law suit, the school will buckle.  Also, if this is what constitutes an expulsion these days, I never would have made it out of grade school.
  • Original Story (Score:5, Informative)

    by cforciea (1926392) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:05PM (#39511967)
    Here's the original local story:

    http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20120325/LOCAL0201/303259931 [journalgazette.net]

    It appears the confusion all over the place here derives from the fact that there were two separate incidents. First, last year, he used school equipment to post a profane tweet and was suspended. Then, recently, he posted the above linked profane tweet, but it was from home, on his own computer, not on the school's network at all. They just saw it because they were examining his Twitter account because of the last incident.

    Hopefully that clears up some of the confusion.
  • by Bensam123 (1340765) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @02:49PM (#39514385)
    My brother is currently in highschool and they have a laptop program there too. I got a chance to inspect his laptop. Students are encouraged to use their laptops not only at school, but also at home. They're allowed to take them home, over spring break, over summer break, and they have a trade up program.

    However, all traffic from the laptop is routed through their VPN, you can't even shut it off or edit any system settings. They have the OS completely restricted. If you install anything on the laptop without their permission, they reprimand you for it. They have unfettered access to the embedded webcam (I told him to put a piece of electrical tape over it and if anyone questions it ask why he needs to remove it) and they also have complete remote access abilities to monitor his laptop.

    Honestly this is all pretty sick. A school isn't a business. While it may be appropriate for a business to protect it's assets and make sure they aren't being misused, the school is run by the government, which is in turn (supposed to be) run by the people. A simple reimage of the computer would wipe anything the user has done. As long as they don't physically break it then there shouldn't be any problems. Instead they are not only going out of their way to lockdown the OS (which prevents any sort of meaningful learning experience outside of a handful of software suites they deem worthy), but also patrol what their students do, which in turn opens up space for liability as well. Whatever happened to parents doing this sort of thing anyway?

    If he didn't HAVE to use the laptop, and oh yes, they are required, to use the laptop in school, outside of school, and they can't buy their own, I would suggest him using the home computer. They are required to essentially funnel everything that is school related through the device. There aren't ways to access the in school programs outside of the VPN, like the drop box.

    This is exactly how NOT to do a laptop program if you give a shit about the people actually using them.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

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