Way back in 2005, we wrote a story about a ridiculous situation in which a group of students were suspended
after filming an angry teacher go on a bit of a tirade, screaming at students and yanking the chair out from under one of them. Rather than discipline the teacher, the school suspended the students. This was way back before it was that common for everyone to have phones with cameras in them (back when people still called them "cameraphones" and mocked them) and before social media made it so easy to widely distribute such images and videos. You'd think, given nearly a decade of time to get used to the concept that we wouldn't see a similar story pop up... but that's not the case apparently. 10 students in California have been suspended from their high school
for posting, sharing or commenting on an image that appears to be their principal putting a student into a choke hold:
There is some dispute about what's happening in the photo. The principal, Todd Whitmire, claims that the girl was involved in a fight, and he had separated her from others, "and she began struggling and I was pushing her away to get her away from the area and she fell down." The girl, Ashley Johnson, a 9th-grader at the school, disputes this, is wearing a neck brace and claims that Whitemore injured her neck. Either version of the events may be plausible, but no matter what the truth is, it's ridiculous to suspend students for posting, sharing or commenting on the photo. Yet that's what the school did
. Whitmire claims that the original posting of the image wasn't the problem, but "keeping it alive" or making "negative comments" somehow constitutes "cyberbullying."
Principal Todd Whitmire said it wasn't the posting of the photo that got the suspended students in trouble but rather the comments that were added to the photo, which he said amounts to cyberbullying through a social network. The two students who fought were also suspended earlier this week for their actions as called for under the state education code.
"It was the reposting, the retweeting, and keeping it alive and assigning negative comments to it and creating a hostile environment" for the girl, he said Wednesday of the posts that followed Friday's on-campus fight.
This is shameful. It seems abundantly clear that the school is trying to stifle free expression and free speech -- and they flat out admit that fact, but hide behind the claim that it's "cyberbullying." Cyberbullying of who? The principal? Really? If you're going to be an administrator in a public high school, you need to have a slightly thicker skin than to suspend students for saying some mean things about a photo of you.