Their bright idea--and I'll try and get a copy of the exact wording pretty soon--is that the school will not tolerate any "hateful, denigrating, libelous or slanderous" material on the internet, whether posted on or off campus.
Now, I'll try to word this as carefully as I can. Are these people completely fucking insane? It's incredible to me that, as many opportunities to consult with students as they had, and with the guide to the appropriate legal decisions that I was generous enough to give them, they still sorted through every possibility and managed to select the one that's exactly wrong.
They've had three chances on this (once when it first came up, once when they decided to hand out suspensions, and now this new policy), and all three times they've failed. As such, the following, which I dropped off for Thiermann in slightly edited form a couple of days ago, was faxed to the American Civil Liberties Union today:
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Teapot Dome, and I am a 17-year-old senior at Head Royce School, in Oakland. I have been a member of the ACLU for over a year, and in a time when I am forced to question America in ways I never thought would be necessary, I still believe that the Bill of Rights is the most important document in the fight for our fundamental freedoms.
It is thus with some concern that I relate to you the following incident. Two weeks ago, a ninth grader—whom I will refer to here, in order to protect his already-tattered privacy, as Kyle—posted a number of comments to his Live Journal (a popular, publicly accessible Web log service). in which he expressed his anger towards and frustration with the school and several people there, including teachers, students and administrators.
Later, someone printed out these comments and delivered them anonymously to several administrators. On Monday, February 2, Carl Thiermann, the head of the Upper School (Head Royce is a private, K-12 school, so the head of the Upper School is in effect the principal of the high school) informed Kyle that his comments, which he had made off-campus and on his own time, constituted "hateful things toward the school and about members of the school" and that Kyle would be expelled unless he deleted his Live Journal entirely. Faced with this threat, Kyle complied; nonetheless, he was suspended on Thursday the fifth for two days.
This is troubling for a number of reasons. Since Head Royce is a private school, we students are not directly protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment; however, we are entitled to those rights under Calif. Educ. Code section 48950 (the Leonard Law), which states in part thatSchool districts operating one or more high schools and private secondary schools shall not make or enforce any rule subjecting any high school pupil to disciplinary sanctions solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside of the campus, is protected from governmental restriction by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution...
I have made an attempt to familiarize myself with the landmark cases involving student speech, and, based on my (admittedly secondhand) familiarity with Kyle's comments, I believe that his speech does not meet the Tinker v. Des Moines standard of 'materially and substantially interfering with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school'. Other cases specifically involving off-campus student Web sites, including Mahaffey v. Aldrich and Beussink v. Woodland R-IV School District, seem to support Kyle's speech as well.
I am writing to you for suggestions as to what steps should be taken next. Any assistance you could lend in resolving this matter, whether discussions with the administration, media exposure, or legal action, would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you very much for your attention to this extremely important matter.
"Respect and responsibility"? Fuck you, you've managed to (a) squander any respect the student body might have had for you, and (b) disgracefully shirk your responsibility to the students and their rights. Bring it.