ACLU Defends Student Who Called Teacher 'Douche Bag' on Facebook

Categories: Law & Order, Tech
rsz_patrickhenry1.jpg
Give me liberty or give me death, douche bags!
From the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights comes the latest tale of First Amendment issues in the digital age -- this one sparked by a high school sophomore who was suspended for calling his biology teacher a "douche bag" on Facebook.

As California Watch and the San Francisco Chronicle report, 15-year-old Donny Tobolski posted a status update to his Facebook profile that said his biology teacher at Mesa Verde High was "a fat ass who should stop eating fast food, and is a douche bag." Ah, the rapier wit of socially networked adolescence.

Alerted of this online barb, the school suspended him for cyberbullying -- only to back down when the American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter to school officials asserting that disciplining a student for exercising free speech, so long as the speech isn't wreaking havoc with school functions, is an unconstitutional act.

The ACLU had apparently been contacted by Tobolski's mom, who according to California Watch "was livid" and "felt the school was overreaching." The school responded to the ACLU letter by erasing the suspension from Tobolski's record.

To sum up: the Constitution guarantees that calling one of your teachers a "fat ass" and "douche bag" on a widely used Internet site will not get you into trouble at school. We're guessing that this ain't Antonin Scalia's version of strict constructionism.

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36 comments
RattlepantS
RattlepantS

Please, they should hear what students are called in the teachers lounge by people with more than an 800 word vocabulary... 

Sawyers2sell
Sawyers2sell

Although if it was my kid he would have been punished for his stupid behavior.  That being said, there is such a thing as a right to privacy and what this kid did , although insulting, is within his and anyones right to free expression.  If it was done in the classroom the story would be mych different.

Lucy Betageek Hanouille
Lucy Betageek Hanouille

Lesson to the Administration and Teachers: being called a name once is not bullying in any form. Bullying is a persistent pattern of negative or violent speech and actions directed at a person or persons. Grow up and set a better example for the students.

hey there
hey there

Hey these douchebags are never gonna change you gotta tell them straight up

bigriggs
bigriggs

I'm sure mommy is so proud of her little bastard....

Nicolas Martin
Nicolas Martin

The gratuitous tag about Scalia wasn't necessary, and probably wasn't accurate.

Emelio Lizardo
Emelio Lizardo

The SCOTUS did rule, correctly, that even hateful speech is protected speech. Outside of class an opinion is just that. Or you want your employer scouring FB for reasons to fire you?

David Elliott Lewis
David Elliott Lewis

To not respond to such verbal abuse is to condone it. Society continues to suffer a loss of decency and politeness. I think there should be consequences for this student's lack of civility. Rather than suspend him, however, I would have sought a remedy such as requiring him to write a research paper or do some school project. If he refused, then I would penalize his grades. I would make him pay by forcing him to learn more.

What'sgoodforthegoose
What'sgoodforthegoose

If the driver next to you flips you off, do you have the RIGHT to get their licence suspended for offending you? Get over yourself! What is the other side of the story? Did the teacher say the student was stupid? Did the teacher say that the student would never be successful? People being rude to one another goes both ways. No one can claim to be the epitome of politeness and courtesy.

Seth
Seth

The only problem is that little brats like this often refuse to learn or obey school rules anyways. Due to many districts desire to pass everyone and keep discipline numbers down, many teachers can't enforce the type of discipline you are talking about because they won't be backed by their administration.

Crawcraw
Crawcraw

This is horseshit. That little asshole mouthed off and deserves to get suspended. This isn't a matter of civil liberties it's a matter of respect, & this brat needs to learn some. The ACLU is the same organization that sends lawyers off to help the terrorists that kill our men and women overseas. I'm 110% positive there's many more people who could actually use the ACLU's help. Disgusting and shame on them.

What'sgoodforthegoose
What'sgoodforthegoose

You have just called the child a "little asshole" and a "brat". I'm very curious as to why it is acceptable for you to do this in a public forum and not the student.

P.F. Bruns
P.F. Bruns

The school's jurisdiction over students ends at the edge of school grounds. Schools should not be authorized to restrict a student's right to free speech outside the student's school, and should be limited (by common sense, if nothing else) on what they can restrict on school grounds.

Anonymous
Anonymous

First you liken the ACLU to terrorism-sympathizers, basically proving to anyone reading that you are a moron.

Then you go about an all-out bashing of some kid for his own all-out bashing of a teacher. Guess what? By your own logic, you are no better than he is. If you happened to be his age and going to the same school as him, you would now be the one suspended for cyberbullying for your comment. So... how's it feel to be denied your basic rights?

Anonymous
Anonymous

It's attitudes like yours that spawn the kind of irrational resentment in the first place. You do not deserve respect, ever. You EARN it.

Wenneker
Wenneker

So if the TEACHER should post on the web which of his students he thinks are stupid and should be sterilized that would only be HIS OPINION and not something which might traumatize the students (and result in multiple lawsuits)?

Anonymous
Anonymous

Actually, yes.. The fact that society would sue him and the school into the ground is a symptom of an oversensitized culture where individuals are taught to overreact to the smallest things.

Schematican
Schematican

Teachers are required to sign a morality clause with their contracts. They wouldn't be able to get away with it.

P.F. Bruns
P.F. Bruns

A person's opinion is not a moral issue. If you say you don't like me, that's not a moral wrong, any more than if you say you do like me, it's not "the right thing."

That said, a teacher should act like an adult, and a kid should act as grown-up as he or she can. But expecting either should not be a right. The school should have the authority to stop a teacher from making derogatory comments about his or her students because doing so is prejudicial to good order and discipline, but kids should not be subject to school discipline off school grounds.

Ckerton
Ckerton

I can't believe people these days. When I was a teenager in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we didn't have texting on cell phones and there were no social networks. Now I see it all over where people are putting nasty stuff online and texting back and forth about each other in real time. The old saying, "It takes one to know one" applies here and maby the student is the real douchbag for posting bad things about his teacher who should be respected. When I was a kid you could get the strap in school if you were really bad but now kids can get away with almost anything and are not held accountable for their actions. We are raising a generation of disrespectful people.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Why should the teacher be respected? Respect is earned by actions, not by titles or words.

captaingrumpy
captaingrumpy

That's why repect is such a wrong word in American prisons. They dont mean "respect", they mean " be afraid of ".Typical America.

SnakeTits
SnakeTits

Yeah. That's right. Adults should be respected... because they are adults. Especially people in positions of power. No matter what. I don't care if a teacher is evil and abusive. I don't care if a cop beats you for no reason, or if a priest abuses you. Kids: Listen to Ckerton! Shut up and take it. No person in a position of authority is ever wrong, bad, annoying or evil.

melb1970
melb1970

Maybe , baby this kid should have just kept his trap shut if he wasn't ready to face the consequences of running his mouth. What would have happened to our little friend had he uttered these words in person to his teacher?If he didn't have the cahones to say it to his face maybe he had no business saying it in the first place- seriously.

Lawyer707
Lawyer707

That's just ridiculous. I just stabbed my knife into a 2x4. Maybe I should be prosecuted for murder, because, you know, what if I'd done it to a live human being instead?

If the kid had said it directly to the teacher, it would have happened in class, and nobody doubts a teacher's right to control his own classroom. But it DIDN'T happen in class, that's the point. It happened NOT in class, and what the point is is that teachers and schools don't have 24/7/365 control over students.

Michael
Michael

Because "a fat ass who should stop eating fast food, and is a douche bag" is grounds for a kid to be disrespectful. Kids should respect adults as a general guideline, not a fiat.

Now I know why none of my friends who got education degrees are actually going into teaching.

P.F. Bruns
P.F. Bruns

People should respect people at a basic level, regardless of other considerations. Age should never automatically confer respect. I'm 39, and I don't assume that I deserve more respect than any other human, older or younger than me. Certainly, I would like to be more respected based on my knowledge and competence, but that additional respect is earned.

The Constitution neither guarantees nor prohibits a right to respect.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Not if that adult abuses their power in sanctimonious or hypocritical ways. No one picks up on that faster than a teenager. That's the age were people are looking for functional processes for living life and one of the surest ways to tell that something DOESN'T work is when it reeks of hypocrisy, favoritism, or some other rampantly emotional justifications.

Guest
Guest

Yeah, it's just ridiculous that the kid gets in trouble for something he said off school property and not during school time. I mean any teacher that thinks there isn't a large circle of their students hanging out and just talking 100% crap about that teacher is living in a world of delusion. This kid just did it in a way where it was easier for the teacher to find out what's being said about them.

circeherbivora
circeherbivora

If the school has more than one teacher that covers Biology, I think the student should be transferred to a different class. The student has a right to free speech and I think the teacher has the right to not be openly insulted. If there are no other teachers who teach Biology....well then, that is an impasse, isn't it?

Anonymous
Anonymous

no one has a 'right' to not be insulted. this 'entitlement to feelings' is a problematic trend in cultures today, and it just leads to over sensitivity..and that leads to insane crackdowns on personal liberty.

Mcdermottmb
Mcdermottmb

 I couldn't agree more.....No one has a right to be free from offense.  This is political correctness run afoul!  I have a right to say what I want.  You have a right to not listen.  If I hurt your feelings, so be it.  That is MY RIGHT and it trumps your perceived right every day of the week.  

P.F. Bruns
P.F. Bruns

Absolutely. How did the teacher even see the student's comment in the first place? I mean, it's not like they'd friend each other, I'm guessing.

Folks, I'm not saying that young Mr. Tobolski should have made the comment he made. I am saying that he should have the right to do it.

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