High School Student Suspended For Insulting Teacher on Facebook

We have yet another case of a student being punished for remarks made on Facebook. Tenth-grader Donny Tobolski described one of his teachers as a “fat ass who should stop eating fast food, and is a douche bag.” He was promptly suspended.


The insult was written after Tobolski was given an unusually heavy amount of biology homework. He wrote the comments on his home computer and after school hours. The first amendment did not stop Mesa Verde High School Principal Rick Messer from punishing Tobolski.

There is no question that his comments were inappropriate and disrespectful. There is no question that Messer should have called the parents and that they should have assured him that they would punish Donny and guarantee that he remove the posting. However, the use of suspension raises serious free speech issues.

We have seen a steady erosion of the free speech rights of students in the last decade. The Supreme Court accelerated that trend in its Morse decision. Former JDHS Principal Deb Morse suspended Frederick in 2002 during the Olympic Torch Relay for holding up a 14-foot banner across from the high school that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” The case ultimately led to the Supreme Court which ruled in Morse v. Frederick ruling in 2007 for the Board — a decision that I strongly disagreed with and one that has encouraged over-reaching by school officials into protected areas. Frederick, however continued to litigate, claiming among other things that his first amendment speech rights were violated under the Alaskan Constitution.

For a copy of the Morse decision, click here.

Civil libertarians hoped that Obama would appoint someone with a strong commitment to free speech and student rights. However, he appointed Sonia Sotomayor who was heavily criticized on the Second Circuit for her role in the Donniger case where she ruled against high school student Avery Doninger who contested her punishment for posting an objectionable message on an Internet site about Lewis Mills High School. When she objected to the cancellation of a school event in vulgar terms, school officials barred her from running for Senior Class secretary. In Doninger v. Niehoff, the Second Circuit upheld the right of school officials to punish students for out-of–school speech in a major blow to both the first amendment and student rights.

Increasingly, school officials are assuming the authority to police the out-of-school statements of students and punishing speech that they find objectionable (here). Teachers have also been disciplined for their own after-hours postings (here) and here).

We are raising a new generation of citizens in this increasing authoritarian environment of unchecked and at times capricious authority.

Source: ACLU

Jonathan Turley

70 thoughts on “High School Student Suspended For Insulting Teacher on Facebook

  1. I am posting this because of comments made by my sons’ school band director to 2 young ladies because of their sexual orientation. They were caught holding hands by the band director. My son was suspended from school at the end of last year for 3 days, kicked out of band permanently and sent to the alternative school for 6 weeks this year. All because of a comment he made on facebook after school hours where he doesn’t even mention the band directors name. Students were commenting on one of the young ladies’ status. My son agreed with another students post and then said some other ugly things but my son never threated the band director. He insulted the band director and that was all. I have a copy of the facebook page where several students made comments and one of the young ladies told what happened. 2 other students were suspended from school for 3 days and 1 other was kicked out of band forever also, but only my son was sent to dcac. On top of everything else, the band director was not investigated for his comments to the young ladies. I have contacted the ACLU. I hope you will think this story is important enough to shed some light on it. My son is a good kid, makes good grades and is popular. He has never been in major trouble before and is looked up to by his friends as a moral and ethical beacon. He is strong so the fact he has been sent to dcac is not my problem with what has happened. The fact that these young ladies were called out and humiliated, several students had their rights violated (they were all at home and not on school grounds when comments were made) and my son has been made an example of frustrates me to no end. Especially when the band director has crossed so many ethical boundries with naught to show for it. If you look at his facebook page you’ll see he’s “friends” with so many students. It’s my understanding that teachers are not allowed to be “friends” with students on facebook. I am not a lawyer so I do not know all the laws regulating facebook but no one was threated and the comments were made off school grounds and not during school hours. It seems that these students’ rights were violated and they are being unfairly punished for acts not criminal in nature. These students are human and were hurting for their friends and acted as children. My son was punished at home for his actions as I am sure were his friends. Where does the punishment stop for these students? Getting kicked out of band is going to severly tard scholorships for the students kicked out and the students not kicked out are in fear. The young lady whose facebook page it was said the band director told them “I do not approve of what you are doing” “I’m going to be watching you two forever and that is a choice that you made. That’s going to follow you for your entire high school career.” “I don’t like it.”

  2. The school district should already know that they are going to end up wasting tax payer money on this. Previous cases have been favoring the student’s right to free speech.

  3. RE: Nate, February 18, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Mr. Harris,

    “It is in the nature of the socialization that enables those of the top tier to be there…”

    Effective communication is probably in there somewhere.

    I regret getting drawn into this conversation. Our little crossing of paths has made me slightly the worse for wear, but I will give you what you want…

    How do I see myself? I don’t. There’s too much awesomeness in the life within and outside me to bother with such trivialities. I have that view because life itself nurtures me so. My cup runneth over.

    Happy living. And wishing you success in your pursuits, whatever they might be.

    #########################################

    Thank you.

  4. Mr. Harris,

    “It is in the nature of the socialization that enables those of the top tier to be there…”

    Effective communication is probably in there somewhere.

    I regret getting drawn into this conversation. Our little crossing of paths has made me slightly the worse for wear, but I will give you what you want…

    How do I see myself? I don’t. There’s too much awesomeness in the life within and outside me to bother with such trivialities. I have that view because life itself nurtures me so. My cup runneth over.

    Happy living. And wishing you success in your pursuits, whatever they might be.

  5. Awww. You’ve had enough of my taunts? Too bad. They’re not going to stop, Propaganda Bot.

    But as to the tearing down?

    No. It doesn’t “make your work stronger”, Mr. Hallucination. It simply destroys it. And yes, I do a beautiful job of destroying propaganda. Thanks for noticing.

  6. Awwww.

    Playin’ the “victim” card AND the Jesus card because your science sucks.

    The only nonsense about your qualifications is that you think you have any that are relevant to the socially toxic ideas you spread and try to pass off as science.

    “Being intransigently uninformed and being adamantly ignorant is not a character flaw, nor any sort of personal disability, it is simply a life-saving trauma response to terrifying trauma an accurate description of why no rational person should take what Brian says seriously except as antisocial propaganda.”

  7. RE: Buddha Is Laughing, February 17, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    I’ll gladly keep tearing it down.

    ##################################

    Thanks again for your help.

    Your help is simply so beautiful!

    The more you tear my work down, the stronger it becomes.

    However, I have had enough for now of your manifestly childish taunts.

    I had learned well how to manage such before my third birthday.

  8. Because my autistic brain allows me no access to the human brain disaster sometimes named “theory of mind,” either I do psychoanalysis in “self-defense” or I can expect people who have not troubled themselves to make the effort to actually discover whether my work is or is not meaningful are unduly likely to shorten the life of my body in ways I would find inappropriate if not downright unacceptable.

    There is a story of someone who asked the sort of questions my life asks me to ask.

    The most recent person whose life asked as my life asked reportedly said, as found in Luke23:

    “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”

    “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

    Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice,

    “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,”

    and when he had said this he breathed his last.

    What I am doing is, to put it one way, as though following the path of Jesus, doing so as an ordinary, run-of-the-mill person and doing so because no valid authority as ever admonished me to do else.

    To the question, have I ever read Freud? No, I have never read Freud. I have, however, read much of his written work, along with every other major psychology/psychiatry researcher whose work I have been able to access.

    The sort of questions about my background and the nature of my work are not the issue I came here to resolve.

    As to what I have read, all it takes is someone with the simple courage to communicate directly with me live via Skype, and I can gather up a gaggle of books and show that I have the books I report having.

    I had figured out why Sigmund Freud was in grave error regarding human personality formation while I was yet in grade school.

    William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn, MB, ChB, MD devised his “Object Relations Theory of Personality,” wherein he observed that the ego is present at birth. Freud meant well, within the context of his life.

    The late Conrad W. Baars, M.D. developed his version of Affirmation Therapy (read his book, Healing the Unaffirmed for more about that).

    Because Dr. James Drummond imposed civil rights violation abuse on me, such that I was not able to do all the library research I sought to do for my dissertation, I never came across the work of Dr. Baars and Dr. Anna Terruwe until after my dissertation had been approved. When I found the work of Baars and Terruwe (grounded to a large extend on the prior work of Thomas Aquinas) I changed what was originally “Affirmation Therapy” in the thesis copies at the University of Illinois at Chicago to Affirmational Therapy to distinguish my work from that of Baars and Terruwe.

    I have begun to construct a much larger study in the corner of the basement of our house, and, in that much larger study than I now have available, I will have enough bookcase shelving to hold perhaps an eighth of my library, and will use the study also as a place for making short video presentations of aspects of my work which are impossible to convey in mere words.

    Whereupon, the nonsense about my qualifications will likely dissipate as though it never was. It may take me two to four months to adequately complete that study. By then, I expect to have gotten my hands on the twelve volumes of my Interpreter’s Bible and the four volumes of my Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible and a whole host of books for which I now lack shelf space. All of my books were readily accessible when we lived in a ten room, 2.5 bathroom house in Sturgeon Bay. Alas, by the time the Door County Circuit Court had finished punishing us for adopting an eleven year old boy in need of a good home and treating him with decency and love, we were financially ruined and fled to a little house in the country that we could still manage to afford.

    If the Door County Circuit Court (Judges Diltz and Koehn)taught me anything, it is that the Adversarial System of Jurisprudence is a sickening atrocity. I never wanted to be so taught, not really, not in that way.

    I forgive abuse, and I tattle about it.

    Brian is a tattle-tale.
    Brian is a tattle tale.
    Brian is a tattle tail,
    as in H. Allen Smith, The Age of the Tail.
    Snip, snap, snout, this tail’s on its way out.
    (apologies to Angela Keyes)

    Had no one chosen to as-though despotically squash me like a stink bug, I would not have needed put forth any effort to inform those of the intransigently uninformed adamant ignoranti who posted derogatory comments regarding me, and my work, of their actual condition.

    Being intransigently uninformed and being adamantly ignorant is not a character flaw, nor any sort of personal disability, it is simply a life-saving trauma response to terrifying trauma.

  9. Ooooo.

    More Jesus appeals because your logic and reason, and ergo your science, sucks.

    That’s just adorable.

    And by adorable, I mean pathetic.

    What you are in antisocial bullshit construction, Brian.

    A propagandist need not argue to spread bad ideas. They can subsist on merely spreading the Big Lie(s).

    In this kind of forum though, sport? A propagandist damn well better be able to argue in their defense or their bad ideas get deconstructed and destroyed. Just like your nonsense has been destroyed. So far, you’re a miserable failure playing defense, Circular Logic Boy.

    Like I said before, spout your poison all you like.

    I’ll gladly keep tearing it down.

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