Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

How One Tweet Got A High School Student Expelled

    Screenshot / Indiana's News Center

    High school senior Austin Carroll was recently expelled from Garrett High School in northeast Indiana for posting an expletive-laced tweet on his personal Twitter account.

    A northeast Indiana high school has drawn international attention for expelling a student last week after he posted an F-bomb-laden tweet on his personal Twitter account.

    Garrett High School administrators expelled senior Austin Carroll for the tweet, according to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. The story’s since gotten play on national tech blogs and even in the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

    Police had to be called out to Garrett High after some of the school’s 600 students threatened to protest the expulsion, Indiana’s News Center reported.

    Carroll has had minor run-ins with school officials in the past for his behavior, but nothing criminally serious. So what was it that Carroll tweeted?

    “One of my tweets was, ‘F*** is one of those f****** words you can f****** put anywhere in a f***** sentence and it still f****** make sense,’” Carroll told Indiana’s News Center.

    Where and how Carroll sent the tweet is in dispute. Carroll said he sent it from a personal computer around 2:30 a.m. Garrett officials say it came from a school-owned laptop because the tweets came from an IP address on the school’s network, the Journal Gazette says.

    The blogosphere is coming to Carroll’s defense, saying his free speech rights had been violated and questioning why the school was tracking his tweets. From Tech Dirt:

    It seems clear that the school was aggressively monitoring social networking activity, and chose to expel the kid because of his decision to express himself… I don’t see how the school has a legitimate argument for expulsion here as it appears to violate his basic First Amendment rights. Even beyond that, though, it’s really pretty shameful what the school is teaching its students. Spying on students and punishing them for expressing themselves gives exactly the wrong kind of message to students.

    Though it sounds like this case won’t end up in front of a judge — Carroll has decided not to fight the expulsion — Indiana schools are no strangers to First Amendment court cases:

    • Last summer, we reported about a federal judge’s ruling that administrators at Churubusco High School — not far from Garrett — were wrong to suspend two sophomore girls from the volleyball team for six games. Their supposed offense? Posting pictures of themselves on Facebook with phallic lollipops.
    • WTHR has the story of an Indiana eighth grader who sued the Twin Lakes School Corporation, which refused to allow him wear a breast cancer awareness bracelet with the message “I (heart) Boobies.”

    Carroll’s mom, Pam Smith, told the Journal Gazette she doesn’t approve of the tweet’s language, but feels school administrators — who have refused comment to both local news outlets — targeted her son because of earlier run-ins with the principal. Carroll has had attendance issues and once showed up to school in a kilt, which didn’t go over well with Garrett staff.

    Moral of the story, in Twitter vernacular: #dontpoststuffonlineyouwouldntshowyourgrandmother


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