Thursday, December 08, 2005

Blogging controversy in Chicago

Today's Chicago Sun-Times features a story about bloggers at Taft High School -- kids who went way over the line on their 'personal' blogs -- threatening teachers, by name no less, making disgusting allegations.

The teachers probably want the kids' heads severed from their bodies and displayed on bloody pikes. Some of the students claim that the bloggers' First Amendment rights have been violated (the CPS legal department apparently had to consider this issue). Still other students claim disappointment that school authorities would monitor their 'personal' blogs.

Personal? On the Internet? Some remedial instruction is clearly in order here.

The teachers in question have every right to be offended -- and angry and violated. But should they feel threatened? As in let's call the police and give these kids a criminal record? That's pretty much what you might expect to happen in this intolerant day and age.

But there should be due consideration of context. If these threats were on a street gang's website (do street gangs have websites?) the teachers would have every reason to be scared. But these were apparently the ravings of seventh and eighth grade students in an advanced program housed at the school. These are probably not the scary kids.

I am not suggesting that these postings should be ignored or overlooked. In light of Columbine and other school tragedies, that would be entirely irresponsible.

But that does not mean all teacher threats should be prosecuted. The kids should be disciplined -- one has already apologized online according to the story in the paper -- and counseled, perhaps, on more appropriate ways to express themselves. (Such counseling should also be made available to members of Congress and talking heads on cable news networks.) And maybe these kids should be watched more closely. Here's a radical thought: Perhaps their parents could be enlisted in this effort.

On the other hand, I seem to recall singing on the playground, about a hundred years ago, this song (to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic):

Mine eyes have seen the glory
Of the burning of the school
We have tortured every teacher
And have broken every rule
I stood behind the door
With a loaded .44
And Sister don't teach no more....

No, it's not nice. It was foolish and childish and stupid. But I and the other playground songbirds were no threat to anyone except music lovers. And poets.

In today's climate we'd probably be expelled. For starters. So it is with some relief that I note that the Sun-Times story reports that the bloggers in question were merely suspended. That sounds like the right level of punishment -- especially if all the bloggers are made to post mea culpas.

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