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Student Suspended For Criticizing Teacher Online

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Feb 22, 2010 6:40PM

2010_02_22_fb.jpg How far does a school's power reach? Apparently, well outside school walls to a student's own home. One Oak Forest student discovered this the hard way as the school has suspended for five days him for starting a Facebook page slamming one of his teachers. Meanwhile, his mother is mulling legal action against the school for the suspension. Oak Forest High School sophomore Justin Bird received a five-day suspension for the page, dedicated to "anyone who has had a bad experience or plain dislikes" the teacher. The page received 50 fans but no comments before Justin took it down on February 14 out of fear he'd get in trouble with the school. Sure enough, the suspension was handed down the next day. But is it warranted? The Sun-Times reports, "Justin and his mother, Donna Bird, said the comments were posted on his own time, using his own computer and in his own home."

There is a precedent for this sort of thing:

Last week, a federal judge ruled that Katherine Evans could sue her former high school principal to have a suspension expunged from her record. She was suspended in 2007 from the Pembroke Pines Charter High School in Florida after she created a Facebook page to criticize one of her teachers.

While the page referred to the teacher in a "derogatory" manner, there's no indication anything went beyond that (i.e., threatening the teacher). Bremen Community High School District 228 Supt. Bill Kendall told the Sun-Times that if there were enough similarities between that case and Justin's, the suspension will be expunged. For the time being, though, the school has made the offer to have three of his five days of suspension lifted "if the student completes a program that deals with anger management and making better choices."

So a high school student said some derogatory things about a teacher he didn't like? Color us shocked. Sure, posting it in a public place shows a certain lack of judgment, but it hardly seems worthy of a suspension - which could throw a wrench in the student's academic future - or forcing him to undergo anger management classes.