Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stupid Kid: Father Threatens Lawsuit Over Kid's Dumbass Facebook Postings

Being in the midst of confronting my own discipline challenges with my son, I was struck dumb by a story I read in yesterday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The story is about three middle school students who posted disparaging – and possibly career ending – statements about a teacher at their school on their Facebook pages. The statements ranged from saying the teacher was a pedophile and rapist to stating that the teacher was bipolar.

The school, rightly in my opinion, suspended the students because their statements were not grounded in any sort of truth and were disruptive to the learning environment at the school.

Of course, one of the kids' fathers is furious and says the school had no right to suspend the kids, calling it a violation of their privacy. They're considering a lawsuit says the father.

Ridiculous. Right?

Maybe not. Apparently, there is a precedent for allowing mouthy high school students who have no respect for anyone other than their selves to get away with slandering teachers or whoever else they want to via Facebook. Granted, what Katherine Evans said about her English teacher is not quite as bad as what these Georgia boys have done, it's still utterly disrespectful and instead of allowing her to move forward with a lawsuit her parents might have served both their daughter and society better by teaching her to mind her manners and show a little respect for the rest of the world.

Anyone who claims that getting in trouble for something you write on Facebook is a violation of your privacy is a fool. If you put it out there on a public profile you have no right to privacy. If you had a private account and the school hacked your account and read your postings, that's something else entirely. But that's not what happened in either of these cases.

I expect and try to teach my sons to care about others, to show them respect, and not say bad things about them. To that end, I try not to speak badly of people in front of my kids. If I found out either of them created a Facebook page (or whatever the cool means of communication is when their teenagers) that said ugly things about a teacher, a fellow student, or their archnemesis, I would put a stop to it immediately and they would have to go apologize in person to the person they hurt. Then, they would have their Facebook privileges taken away. Children, as I learn more and more every day, need structure and parental guidance – not parents who always tell them they're right even at the cost of someone else's dignity.

What say you?

Do kids (or adults) have a right to trash anyone they want to in a public medium with no consequences for their actions?

If your kid did something like this and got suspended would you sue or would you punish your child?


shelley said...

wellll i have a whole lot to say about this... as my oldest was cyber bullied and bashed on facebook with the *help of a parent.. i will be writing more about this.. kids today are out of control and some of their parents are unfortunelty not any better!
shelley :)

Laura said...

Interesting story, this is actually the first I've heard of it. I think that parents need to be very clear in teaching their children that once something is posted online it's public and they can and should be held accountable.

Lisa said...

As the wife of a teacher, I'm sure I'm biased. If my kids did anything like this to anyone, that would put an end to their use of Facebook for a very long time. To answer your question - kids must be taught that you cannot trash people publicly just because you don't like them.

Dawn said...

Ladies, thank you for your comments!

Lisa, you hit on the most important aspect of this: teaching your children not to do something so stupid and hurtful before they do it!

Alex said...

I think that because of the weight of what those kids said about the teachers I think it was right they were suspended. They could have ruined that teachers career & caused all sorts of trouble for them. However, had they said something like "Mr/Mrs Barnes is fat & stupid" then no I don't think they should get suspended because even if they are wrong thats their personal opinion. But the other comments are bordering on defamation of character.

Marina said...

If those kids cannot stay respectful on public media, they should not be even allowed to use FB, or whatever other media channels they have access to

Rachael said...

Agreed that the biggest failure in this is the response of the father. He is condoning the actions of his child and in so doing is teaching his child to defy authority. Someday a police officer might not be so accommodating.
In my opinion comments made on Facebook (when set to public) are the same as going to a public place and making the same comments out loud. Comments made on Facebook when set to private are the same as gathering a group of friends and family and whoever else you let into your circle of friends and making comments to them. Can those comments get out? Yes! Only difference is that on Facebook those people actually have proof (aside from a large number of witness) you made the remarks.
As a parent not only would I be suspending Facebook and all other internet usage we would be having some serious discussions about bearing false witness and gossip. (Not to mention boy why cries wolf.)
As an adult if I start making false accusations against someone I can find myself in court for slander. Why would we want to teach our children they can get away with doing the same thing. What a way to set them up for "real life." I applaud the decision of the school.

Kate Lewis said...

There are so many things wrong with this situation. First, I'll say, congrats to the school for taking a firm stand. Secondly, what is UP with that Dad?? I have to think that he doesn't really - deep down - believe that what that child did is ok...he just doesn't know what to do about it. I've seen a lot of parents breeze through the toddler and elementary school ages with babysitters and full activity schedules. Then, in a blink, their kids are in middle school, doing things like this and they are thrust into a major league parenting delimma - completely unprepared! To ignore the topic of manners and respect is terribly unfair to the kids and makes the lives of the parents really difficult. Very sad and unfortunate that school leaders are forced to deal with these type situations when they could be avoided.
Great post!

thehecticeclecticgirl said...

Kids who are old enough to have their own facebook pages, have the right to say whatever they want... AND the right to have to live with the consequences of their actions, just like the rest of us! If they want to pretend like social media offers them privacy (and I know adults who still haven't figured this out, yet!), and if they choose to be hateful and awful in a public place, then we parents, who are so concerned about their rights, should let them have their right to reality, as well. I agree that handling this before the situation happened would be best, and of course, I believe we should protect our children. I just think that parents who choose to relieve their child of any blame, only do those kids a disservice.

*steps off her soapbox*