Photo not worth 1,000 words

chokehold
A Facebook photo of a principal restraining a girl who’d been fighting resulted in suspensions — for 10 students who “cyber-bullied” the girl.

Principal Todd Whitmire isn’t in trouble, despite a Facebook photo that appears to show him choking a ninth-grade girl. Ashley Johnson, 15, fell as he was pulling her away from a fight, Whitmire told the Contra Costa Times.

Ten students were suspended for “racist and derogatory comments” about the photo, the principal said. ”It was the reposting, the retweeting, and keeping it alive and assigning negative comments to it and creating a hostile environment.”

The fight apparently had been planned on social media, which is why the principal was right there.

Johnson and the boy she was fighting also were suspended. She’s now wearing a neck brace and blaming Whitmire. In an at-home interview, she claimed to be “unable to move,” but a classroom video taken the day before by a school resource officer shows her moving easily, the Times reports.

College student files free-speech lawsuit

Modesto Junior College (MJC) student Robert Van Tuinen has filed a free-speech lawsuit against the Yosemite Community College District and MJC administrators. Van Tuinen, an Army veteran, was prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution — on Constitution Day — because the small “free speech area” was in use.

College: Free speech requires a permit

Modesto Junior College (California) stopped students from handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day, Sept. 13, because they hadn’t obtained a permit five days in advance and weren’t in the “free speech zone.”

District monitors students’ social media posts

In hopes of preventing violence, drug abuse, bullying and suicide, a suburban Los Angeles school district is monitoring middle and high school students’ social media posts, reports CNN.

Glendale is paying $40,500 to Geo Listening to track middle and high school students’ posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

When the idea was piloted last spring, monitoring identified a suicidal student. “We were able to save a life,” said Superintendent Richard Sheehan.

Recently, a student posted a photo of what appeared to be a gun, but turned out to be fake, Sheehan said.

“We had to educate the student on the dangers” of posting such photos, Sheehan said. “He was a good kid. … It had a good ending.”

Geo Listening sends a daily report to principals on which students’ comments could be causes for concern.

A 12-year-old Florida girl committed suicide after months of bullying on social media, her mother says.

Psych prof cleared in ‘gay pride’ assignment

A psychology professor’s assignment — wear a gay pride ribbon and write about the experience — didn’t infringe on students’ rights, concluded an investigation at Columbia State Community College in Tennessee. Students who objected because of their religious beliefs were allowed to do an alternative assignment.

Too much Spanish = hostile environment?

An Arizona nursing student claims she was suspended for complaining that classmates disrupted classes by speaking Spanish. In her lawsuit, Terri Bennett, 50, said classmates spoke Spanish during lessons — apparently translating for non-English speakers — and primarily spoke Spanish during labs, clinicals and other activities. That made it hard for her to learn and created a “hostile environment,” she complained. In addition, the Pima Community College nursing program director called her a “bigot and a bitch,” she charged, before suspending her on charges of intimidation (arguing with an instructor about a test answer), discrimination and harassment.

Students complained that Bennett was harassing and intimidating them for having private conversations in Spanish, David Kutzler, the nursing program director, told the Daily Caller.  He denies calling Bennett a “bigot and a bitch.”

Gay-unfriendly student wins speech case

In a teacher-initiated discussion on anti-gay bullying, a Michigan high school student said he “couldn’t accept gays” because of his Catholic faith. The economics teacher equated the statement to saying he “couldn’t accept blacks” and kicked him out of class, writing up a referral for “unacceptable behavior.”

In a June 19 ruling in Glowacki v. Howell Public School District, a federal district judge ruled that the teacher violated the student’s right to free expression, reports Ed Week.

U.S. District Judge Patrick J. Duggan of Detroit awarded damages of $1 to Daniel Glowacki, who was a junior at Howell High School in the fall of 2010.  Howell Public School District, which took no action against the student and reprimanded the teacher, was not liable, the judge ruled.

“Public schools must strive to provide a safe atmosphere conducive to learning for all students while fostering an environment that tolerates the expression of different viewpoints, even if unpopular, so as to equip students with the tools necessary for participation in a democratic society,” Judge Duggan said.

Glowacki did not disrupt the class, the judge ruled. McDowell engaged in viewpoint discrimination.

When asked about the move by the remaining students, McDowell said a student could not voice an opinion that “creates an uncomfortable learning environment for another student,” according to court papers.

Imagine how lively class discussion would be if no student was allowed to make another student feel uncomfortable.

Glowacki transferred to another economics class.

Teaching the 5th draws suspension

When Batavia High School students were asked to reveal their drug and alcohol abuse on surveys marked with their names, social studies teacher John Dryden told them they didn’t have to answer. It’s in the 5th Amendment.

The 20-year veteran was reprimanded and suspended without pay for a day for what the school board called ”inappropriate and unprofessional” conduct. In a letter, he was ordered to refrain from using “flippant” or sarcastic remarks, providing “legal advice,” and discrediting any district initiative, reports the Chicago Tribune.  ”Other requirements in the letter include that when Dryden is given a directive in a meeting, he must now repeat the directive back at the end of the meeting and agree to comply.”

District officials said the survey was meant to target students “in need of emotional and social interventions,” not to penalize students who admitted breaking the law.

Dryden is unrepentant.

“This un-vetted survey was and is a massive invasion of privacy and students do have a Fifth Amendment right not to give to a state institution any information that might incriminate them regardless of the intentions of that institution,” he wrote in an emailed response to the board’s letter. “The administration has argued that they intended to do the right thing and that we should have simply trusted them to act responsibly with the information provided by students.”

Dryden wrote that that the new requirements are “demeaning, vague, overly broad and constructed to entrap me in a future infraction for the purpose of termination.”

Where is the teachers’ union? Will they take action only when Dryden is fired for future flippancy or failure of allegiance?

Many teachers, former students and parents of current students turned out at the hearing to support Dryden, writes Joe Bertalmio, a local businessman, in the Tribune comments. “High school is a place where you send your kids to become adults, and if the only knock against John Dryden is that he speaks to his students like they are adults then I want every single one of my kids taking his classes. I can’t wait for the day that we get to vote in a new school board, I’ll be right there with a bull horn and list of names to oust.”

Race at Roxbury CC

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick named Gerald Chertavian, who founded a job training program, to chair the board of troubled Roxbury Community College, which has been plagued by mismanagement and scandal. A Boston “activist” claims only blacks should run a majority-black college. (Only 48 percent of students say they’re black, but there seems to be a lot of decline-to-state students.)

An Iowa community college has paid nearly $14,000 to settle a free-speech lawsuit by a student who was barred from handing out flyers criticizing college funding for a conference on gay youth.

Student suspended for Twitter budget ‘riot’

After the Cicero-North Syracuse school district budget was rejected by voters, students debated possible budget cuts on Twitter at #shitCNSshouldcut. The hashtag’s creator, high school senior Patrick Brown, was suspended for three days, reports the Syracuse Post-Standard. He’d called for cutting the executive principal’s job.

“I was called down to the office and told I was being suspended for harassment of teachers, which no harassment was ever committed,” Brown said. “I proved them wrong and instead they suspended me for cellphone use in class and disrupting the education process because the trend I started created a social media riot.”

Brown admits using his cellphone in class. But he doesn’t think that’s why he was suspended. ”It’s wrong that I can’t express my opinion on Twitter without being punished,” Brown said. “They didn’t like our opinions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t express them.”

A lacrosse player, Brown said he’s never received a detention or any other disciplinary action at school.

When word of the suspension spread, someone created #FreePatBrown to discuss freedom of speech. Let’s hope that doesn’t start another social media riot. We wouldn’t want high school students discussing school policy and budget priorities.