An F for vulgarity, an A for free speech
Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky. He also is the Founding Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), the nation’s only academic center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, and was a co-creator of the wildly popular video series, Did You Know? (Shift Happens). He has received numerous national awards for his technology leadership work, including recognitions from the cable industry, Phi Delta Kappa, and the National School Boards Association. In Spring 2011 he was a Visiting Canterbury Fellow at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Dr. McLeod blogs regularly about technology leadership issues at Dangerously Irrelevant and Mind Dump, and occasionally at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at scottmcleod.net.
There has been both good commentary and handwringing in the education
blogosphere over the
recent decision in A.B. v. State
(Ind.App.2007). For example, see
van 't Hooft
For those of you who are interested, here's my comment on Dave Sherman's post:
Dave, please see
and my online presentation at
In the case you cite,
A.B. v. State (Ind.App.2007), the Greencastle Middle School student
posted the following message on MySpace:
Hey you piece of greencastle sh-t. What
the f-ck do you think of me [now] that you can['t] control me? Huh? Ha ha ha
guess what I'll wear my f-cking piercings all day long and to school and you
can['t] do sh-t about it! Ha ha f-cking ha! Stupid bastard! Oh and kudos to
whomever made this ([I'm] pretty sure I know who). Get a
Here's what the court said:
A.B. openly criticizes Gobert's imposed
school policy on decorative body piercings and forcefully indicates her
displeasure with it. While we have little regard for A.B.'s use of vulgar
epithets, we conclude that her overall message constitutes political speech.
Addressing a state actor, the thrust of A.B.'s expression focuses on explicitly
opposing Gobert's action in enforcing a certain school policy.
court also found insufficient harm to result from A.B.'s speech
the State failed to produce any
evidence that A.B.'s expression inflicted particularized harm analogous to
tortuous injury on readily identifiable private interests as required to rebut
A.B.'s claim of political speech.
One of the key aspects of libel is
that you have to prove harm to your reputation. It appears that the court in
this case viewed this as a student spouting off on a school policy issue, which
was well within her rights, and found insufficient harm to the principal's
reputation to warrant a finding of libel.
Dave, you say that you're
worried about this happening to you. Is this any different than a post that
said, "I disagree with Mr. Sherman's policy on piercings? Who does he think he
is? He can't control me. I'm going to do whatever I want and there's nothing he
can do about it. I hate you, Mr. Sherman."?
As you know, you need to
have a thick skin when you're a principal!
Finally, I'll close with some quotes. My favorite school law quote of all
time is the one from the Barnette case:
- Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can
succeed and no republic can survive. - Pres. John F. Kennedy
like sheep to the slaughter. - Pres. George Washington
scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are
not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount
important principles of our government as mere platitudes. - West Virginia
believe in it at all. - Noam Chomsky
The ability to speak clearly, succinctly, and powerfully is easier than you think
The ability to communicate effectively can make or break a person's assessment of your intelligence, competence, and authenticity.
Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.
- Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
- As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
- If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
- Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
- By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
Journalism got a big wake up call in 2016. Can we be optimistic about the future of media?
- "[T]o have a democracy that thrives and actually that manages to stay alive at all, you need regular citizens being able to get good, solid information," says Craig Newmark.
- The only constructive way to deal with fake news? Support trustworthy media. In 2018, Newmark was announced as a major donor of two new media organizations, The City, which will report on New York City-area stories which may have otherwise gone unreported, and The Markup, which will report on technology.
- Greater transparency of fact-checking within media organizations could help confront and correct fake news. Organizations already exist to make media more trustworthy — are we using them? There's The Trust Project, International Fact-Checkers Network, and Tech & Check.
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