Brampton students suspended over Twitter comments about teachers
Nine Ontario high school students were disciplined Thursday for allegedly writing offensive comments about their teachers on Twitter in a case that’s raised discussion about the limits to online expression.
The students from St. Marguerite D’youville in Brampton,Ont., were asked to stay home on Wednesday as officials with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board deliberated their fates.
On Thursday, school board officials told CP24 that two of those students received seven-day suspensions and have been removed from the classes of the teachers named in their tweets.
Three others have received two-day suspensions
Two who participated in the online discussion received a warning
- Another two are back in school, but had to write apology letters.
The students who were suspended can count their time away from school on Wednesday toward the punishment. All of those individuals had to write apology letters.
School board representative Bruce Campbell had previously told CP24 that some of the tweets in question named specific teachers and were sexual in nature. He added that the board considers the tweets cyber-bullying, while some students argue the school has no business in their online affairs.
Campbell said the allegedly inappropriate tweets came to light over the weekend and were deemed serious enough for Peel Regional Police to get involved.
According to CP24 reporter Cam Woolley, Peel police have already finished their probe of the incident.
“They have investigated. They actually sat down with a couple of students, with their parents present, and they were cautioned. Apparently it didn’t meet the threshold for criminal charges,” he said.
Though nine students in total were sent home Wednesday, Campbell says those students had varying levels of involvement in the case.
It’s still unclear how the Dufferin-Peel board responded to the situation, but according to Campbell, suspensions were a possibility.
The case resurrects discussion about what constitutes slander, as well as questions about how much authority a school board wields when students make troublesome comments online.
Last spring, U.S. high school student Austin Carroll was expelled for publishing a tweet containing a string of expletives. According to the Fort Wayne Gazette, officials at Garrett High School claimed that the tweet was typed from a school computer, while Austin said he wrote the post at home.
In Illinois, almost a dozen high school students were suspended in late October for allegedly posting inappropriate comments to Twitter, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. One of the offending posts made reference to a female teacher; another was allegedly a threat to the high school.
Further east, two U.S. high school students in Gaston County, N.C., were suspended last April for allegedly tweeting threats. Each students received a three-day, in-school suspension.
Back in Toronto, the scrutiny that accompanies social networking extended to a board official in October, when Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos posted a tweet that referred to a group of students as “ill-bred twerps.” He wrote the contentious post after witnessing an altercation between the students and a principal at a local high school.
Several students complained that the tweet was unprofessional, but Sotiropoulos remained unapologetic, saying that he was simply expressing his support for teachers.