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Disorderly Conduct Charge for Offensive Classmate Ratings 371

Hatta writes "A Chicago-area teenager who posted a demeaning list of female classmates on Facebook has been arrested for disorderly conduct. Is this an appropriate response to online harassment, or a threat to free speech?"
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Disorderly Conduct Charge for Offensive Classmate Ratings

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  • From TFA: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by raving griff ( 1157645 ) on Friday May 13, 2011 @09:44PM (#36123964)

    "The teenager is believed to be responsible for a list that ranked 50 female students — using racial slurs and ratings of body parts — that circulated around the school and on Facebook, police said. The teen is accused of handing out hard copies of the list Jan. 14 at various lunch periods and posting a copy online, according to police."

    This list was spread both through Facebook and throughout the school. Is it valid to address this as an online harassment case when the article does not even make clear which distribution method the teenager is being charged with disorderly conduct for?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, 2011 @09:45PM (#36123974)

    So a d-bag teenager put a 'demeaning' list of his fellow female classmates on-line and got arrested for it. Rather than the social stigma, female students, and student body appropriately handle this idiot, law enforcement decided to step in.

    If this doesn't prove we've come full circle into a nanny state, I'm not sure what will. He's 17 for cry'in out loud, and in High School! How does an arrest benefit society here?

  • by bky1701 ( 979071 ) on Friday May 13, 2011 @09:46PM (#36123976) Homepage
    We've never had free speech in the US and probably never will, as long as people can make excuses to suppress it like "national security," "cyber bullying," and "copyright." So, how could anything be a threat to what we haven't got?
  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Friday May 13, 2011 @10:42PM (#36124250) Homepage Journal
    I have come to believe what the internet has provided in these situations is publicity, not any more complex decision making. In the past when a boy harassed a girl or ridiculed a group of girls, often because they would not date him, it could be kept in the school, apologize made, and everyone could believe a lesson was learned. The internet changed that local control of the situation.

    For instance, when nooses were left in the schoolyard [wikipedia.org] and nothing was done until the kids who left the nooses were beat to a pulp, the natural reaction was to say the white kids were just funnin' and did not deserve to beat up. OTOH for many who understand the rules of high school, and understand that some things between boys require a level of physical interaction, the outcomes were unfortunate but predicatable. The school chose not to stop the bullying, so the kids took the issue into their own hands. A kangaroo court was prevented due to publicity.

    Likewise when an a 11 year old girl was repeatedly gang raped [thefreshxpress.com] over some time, The community was willing to brand her a slut. Many saida1 she wanted to be raped, and the alleged rapist, one a star athlete, should not be held responsible. After all, what would it do to the scholarship opportunities? Again, easy publicity fo the internet and a video means that the community will have a hard time blaming the victim.

    We see this publicity everywhere. Conservative radio wants to call women sluts and black men stupid and liars. How much father would Trump's birther thing have gotten, and his accusation a black man could never have been the best a Harvard without cheating gotten without the easy access provided by the internet for contradictory facts. The powerful have always had the bully pulpit. In school these are the agressive boys, sometimes girls, and star athletes. But the internet is the real world, and the real world does not operate by adolescent rules. Humiliating another person has never been the right thing to do. It is just that it used to be easier to get away with so we ignored it. Now a bully has the world as his or her judge.

  • by reiisi ( 1211052 ) on Friday May 13, 2011 @10:57PM (#36124318) Homepage

    Wikipedia has a article on disorderly conduct [wikipedia.org].

    Actually, I read this and think we are finally seeing officers of the law figuring out how the internet fits in.

    Clearly, this is disorderly conduct in a couple of public places, and it sounds like the appropriately class of response is being pursued.

    Misdemeanor, as opposed to felony. A bit more serious than a traffic fine, but not nearly on the level of being arrested for grand theft, even.

  • Re:yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mister Transistor ( 259842 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @04:46AM (#36125456) Journal

    Well, as someone from the Chicago suburbs, particularly Crook County, I can tell you the cops around here always use "disorderly conduct" as a general bullshit catch-all charge for "we don't like you, or what you did, whichever". I know, I was in a local station lockup for about 12 hours on a complete bullshit disorderly charge.

    I was guilty of being in the same car as a buddy who got into an argument with someone who turned out to be a an off-duty Chicago pig. And I use the word "pig" in the worst sense possible, this guy was a real asshole and everyone at the local station hated him and told us so. But the jerk turned out to be a fairly high ranking detective, so he had my friend arrested and when I went into the station to find him, he pointed at me and said "Oh, yeah I want him arrested too". Meaning me. I was like, "WTF? I did nothing...". The guys at the local station kept apologizing to me, telling me there was nothing they could do as long as Lt. Dickless wanted me arrested. Well, conveniently, the fax system was "down" and they had to hand-courrier our prints downtown to make sure we weren't wanted on other charges, which I'm sure the asshole told them to make sure we were kept in the cooler for a while, because we both had enough money on us to bail ourselves out.

    Anyway, there's a sort of happy ending. We went to get the best damn shyster lawyer we could find, and we found a really good one - this guy was an crooked ex-judge who later got investigated in the Operation Greylord stings in the 80's - a big anti-corruption operation in Cook County, Chicago in particular. But when we knew him, he did us good - the lawyer found a nice obscure legal precedent that in order to be guilty of disorderly conduct you had to incite others to become disorderly! Great one huh? Basically, short of inciting a riot you can't be guilty of disorderly conduct. At this point the judge points to me and says "It sounds like you weren't involved at all" - I said "you're right, your Honor". And he dismissed my case and found the precedent sufficient to dismiss my buddy's case. Lt. Dickless was pissed!! Heheh.

    The moral is the disorderly conduct charge in Chicago is a joke but popular because it's totally discretionary - it's the Officer's call if you are "disorderly" or not, like "Driving too fast for conditions", which can get you a ticket for going under the speed limit if the Cop thinks you are going too fast. These are bullshit laws but they exist as a catch-all to cover the gaps, I guess. The teen in question should be able to get out of the charge easily because he was not causing anyone else to be disorderly, if they get a good mouthpiece he should be able to get off easily.

    Epilogue: My buddy and I went to Internal Affairs and filed a claim on the asshole for wrongful arrest, and we hoped thy would investigate him. Well one day, we were watching the local educational TV WTTW, and actually saw the jerk on a talk show! Except now he was Captain Dickless!! They actually promoted him. Words failed me at that point. Just as no good deed goes unpunished, I guess no bad one goes unrewarded.

  • by reiisi ( 1211052 ) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @06:04AM (#36125610) Homepage

    No, the Constitution does not forbid restrictions of free speech. The First Amendment says that the government shall not make laws abridging the freedom of speech. The Constitution itself provides for promoting the arts and sciences by certain activities which would be restrictions on the freedom of speech if that freedom were absolute, even without the current ridiculously draconian (mis-?)interpretations of copyright and patent law.

    The first paragraph of the Constitution specifies the purpose of the Constitution. The purposes include establishing justice, ensuring domestic tranquility, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty.

    Therefore, the Constitution provides for some things that take precedence over freedom of speech claims. I am sure you know this, even though you seem to chose to ignore it.

    There is no way, in the real world, that the freedom of speech can be untangled from the other rights and responsibilities of citizens. If you talk about the rights of freedom of speech, you also have to talk about the responsilities, and citizens do have some responsilitiy to refrain from using the freedom of speech as an end-run around protections of another persons rights.

    When opinions remain opinions, they are free. But when they are used to oppress other citizens, there are Constitutional means of recourse when those repressed are not fully able to defend themselves.

    Sexual and racial slurs are often used as tools of physical and sexual abuse. The words, "prove it" are one of the cutting edges of the tool, in spite of abusers behaving as if they have the right of having something proved to them.

    This is the line that is potentially breached by what the boy(s) here did. I say potentially, because we can't know whether it actually was breached without digging into the facts, but that is not our job. Misdemeanor charges are one way of providing both the offended and the accused an opportunity of trying to figure out whether the line was actually crossed. Sometimes it is appropriate to let a judge figure things like this out.

    It is absolutely appropriate to have the option of pressing charges of disorderly conduct, particularly since the conduct was performed in two public places: in the school, made public because the passed the printed list around, and on-line because the forums they used there are public.

    It is also essential that the courts be fair, and that is perhaps a question that should be asked, but, unless we have reason to believe the boy in question is not going to get a fair trial, we must recognize the option of arrest. From what we do know, it is very possible that the line was crossed.

    I've said it elsewhere, but what is most appropriate here is that the people here are using existing law to deal with it, instead of attempting to use the more recent, very flawed laws that could have been invoked, under which this could have been charged as a felony.

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