We have often discussed the continuing crackdown on student free speech in high schools. The latest such case involves Courtni Webb, a seventeen-year-old student at California’s Life Learning Academy who was suspended for writing in a poem in a personal notebook that she “understand[s] the killings in Connecticut.”
A teacher appears to have spotted the poem and the statement that “I know why he pulled the trigger. Why are we oppressed by a dysfunctional community of haters and blamers?” Webb was promptly reported and suspended.
Once again, I fail to understand why students are punished for expressing their feelings and thoughts. I would rather address such feelings in a teachable moment as opposed to, as here, teaching students about the constant threat of censorship and discipline for free speech.
What is particularly problematic is that the student was not glorifying violence but denouncing the bullying and isolation that often comes with high school. Webb insisted that “Never in my life have I heard that you couldn’t mention a tragedy that happened. I didn’t say that I agree with it, I said I simply understand it.”
The lesson from this action is not likely to be received as a matter of responsibility of students as much as the power of authority over students. We should want the students to discuss the massacre, particularly in Connecticut. The students who commit these rare acts of violence tend to be those who did not voice or express their anger and isolation. These disciplinary actions tend to force such students further underground where their feelings of rage and isolation grows. Then there are the much greater number of students like Webb who merely want to discuss the underlying causes for such isolation. They should have not just an opportunity but a right to do so, in my view.
Source: Business Insider