Monday, February 25, 2008

Sue Scheff: Free Speech or Lack of Parenting?

I was contacted by CNN News in regards to this recent story.

As a parent advocate, I am proactive in helping parents protect their children in Cyberspace - whether it is monitoring their MySpace account - or using other protective measures such as Reputation Defender/MyChild to monitor your child’s privacy - but this story completely shocked me.

How can a parent condone a 13 year old writing about a principal in sexual ways? Where is this coming from? The parent is claiming their son has “free speech” - and they are correct about that, but when your 8th grader is calling someone a rapist or child molester without any substantiated evidence, in my opinion, this could be considered defamation - and as my beliefs continues - “Free Speech does not condone defamation.” Furthermore - the writings of “giving students anal” or “jacking off in my office” - is absolutely disgusting that a 13 year old writes this way. This is my personal opinion.

Read Below:

FEBRUARY 21–The parents of an Ohio boy who was expelled this month for creating a phony MySpace profile that described his middle school’s principal as a child molester have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the 13-year-old’s free speech rights have been violated by education officials. Toader and Marianna Osan claim that their son (who is identified only by his initials in U.S. District Court filings) was improperly booted from the eighth grade at Hillside Middle School in Parma after educators learned of the boy’s creation of a MySpace page for principal Jeff Cook. The MySpace profile, which was headlined “Your Princeypal,” did not carry Cook’s name, but it included his photo and identified him as the Hillside Middle School principal. The since-removed profile, an excerpt of which you’ll find below, listed Cook’s general interests as “giving students anal” and “jacking off in my office,” and named his heroes as Michael Jackson, Adolph Hitler, and Saddam Hussein. For his vulgar online handiwork, “M.O.” was first suspended, and then, on February 7, was informed that he was being expelled (for “malicious harassment”) until June 10, effectively the end of the school year, according to a February 20th court filing. His parents argue that students “disrespecting teachers outside of school is an age-old tradition, and one from which teachers neither need nor deserve protection…It would be naive to think that even the most popular principal is not the subject of student ridicule and parody.” The Osans are seeking their son’s immediate return to school and a judicial order protecting his off-campus speech, which previously included the observation that Cook had an affinity for the Purple Penetrator, a sex toy.