Friday, January 30, 2009

Don't Call Me Douchebag.

A CONNECTICUT HIGH SCHOOL student was barred from running for student council after she called her school's administrators "douchebags" on her personal blog.

The student took the case to court, claiming her First Amendment rights were violated.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit declined her case. It was shot down again this month by another federal court.

While discussing the case in federal court this week, the principal testified that she punished Ms. Doninger because the blog entry "demonstrate[d] lack of citizenship" and because she thought "the word douchebags itself [was] a horrible word."

Should students be able to criticize their school administrations on personal blogs? Is using the word "douchebag" offensive? Did the student have her First Amendment rights violated?

(the image above is from the Baltimore Sun's free daily newspaper ... it caused a stir when the paper ran "Douchebag!" on the front of the paper).

17 comments:

Jamie Hunsberger (J1111 class) said...

I was actually President of my high school senior year. As much as I didn't like certain things the Administration did or didn't do, I think she went a little over board with the "douchebag". Although she was saying how she felt, which is not against the law, there's some things that are better left unsaid. And in this case, that is one of them. If she chose her words better, there would not be a problem. It not only makes her school look bad, but makes her look bad by using that choice of wording.

KevinRGold said...

This is an incident where you really have to think smart. Although I think its perfectly ok to express your true feelings towards certian people, its not the smartest thing to do when running for a leadership position. Now taking it to court was a little extreme in my personal opinion but homegirl should have really thought smart. The administration is who she would have been working with had she been selected to the position. How could you possibly work well with people that you openly called a douchebag?

Anonymous said...

So they randomly search the internet and come across her blog? Or maybe its a conspiracy and they track student blogs like some colleges do facebook photos for drinking charges? Either way I don't see how this isn't a violation of her right.

It'd be different if she did this in association with anyone or anything else. She didn't. It'd be different if she was doing this during school. She didn't. All she did was make a personal observation on her own time and in her own way. Frankly, there's no one who can say that they don't make negative comments and arguing severity of word choice is a matter of opinion. For anyone who thinks this is okay, you're essentially sayin that if any one can find a comment offensive they're entitled to taking what amounts to legal action.

Best watch what you say.

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Amanda DiStefano said...

So many people complain about something, but never do anything to help a situation. This student complains (whether insulting or not) and wants to do something about it (hence running for student council) and gets slapped in the face.

I am sure most other students who felt that way would not even care enough to run for a council position and help the problems. (When I was in Highschool, I know I wouldn't have, although a different person now)

It's great that she cares enough about her own society to have a thought about it and want to change it.

Amanda Distefano
(current)Journalism and Society student

Anonymous said...

She called her principal a douchebag, and was consequently barred from running for student council. How is there any controversy over that? I agree that someone should be allowed to say something. I was constantly protecting my right to free speech throughout high school, sometimes turning in papers that left me sitting in front of the principle or the dean of students. But throwing around petty insults on a personal blog and then having the gall to charge a violation of rights as a result of your own unprofessional attitude is just plain douchebaggery.

Geo said...

But she didn't call the principal a douchebag in person. She called the administration douchebags on her own blog, not on school time.

Does that change things? It's one thing for the school to censor the messages within the school. Can they censor students' private time as well?

- George (the teacher who loves the word douchebag)

Angelina Thoman said...

The amount of times that I hear the word douchebag uttered on national television, and now they are taking away the rights of students for using it in their own time, on their own property, expressing an honest (whlie still offensive) opinion? This is ludacris. In my high school years, I had quite a few choice words to say about my teachers on my livejournal account, and it would be hard to believe that no one else has ever felt that way as well.

I was shocked myself when "douchebag" kept popping up on T.V., but if you are going to allow it for anyone and their children to hear on national broadcast, it is hypocritical to revoke the rights of students in the public school systems for using words, that for all intensive purposes, are being TAUGHT to them by their "other parents". Gotta love that mind numbing entertainment...

Jacob Michel said...

To call your school's administrators out of there names is wrong. To run for student counsel for the same school is senseless. By disrespecting influential leaders of a community, what example does one set as one whose trying to follow in their footsteps. This isn't politics/political campaign here...there's a proper way of going about voicing our opinions and this student illustrated the wrong way of doing that.

Jacob M. (J1111)

Andrea Lorenzo said...

This is complete bulls**t!! She has every right to say whatever she wants. When you create a blog, you recognize that anyone can read it. She clearly didn't call the administrators douchebags in a blog post because she didn't want anyone to know! And to be honest, I don't even think that the word "douchebag" is very offensive. I'm sure she could have said worse things. And hey, maybe they are! The First Amendment should protect her rights to freedom of speech. I feel like schools take things entirely too far sometimes.

P.S.- I love the picture on the front cover! That's hilarious. I wish I lived in Baltimore so I could pick one of these up and hang it on my wall!

Anonymous said...

Why was the principal even looking at this student's blog? While he was doing that he probably missed out on ten students calling him a douchebag in the hallways. I think this student definately had her right to free speech violated, particularly because her blog was on the internet and not connected to the school.

- Jess Dunford, douchebag defender

Caitlin Schaefer said...

Just like you represent yourself and parents by the way you speak and act, you also represent your school. In calling the administration of her school "douchebags" she is not doing a very good job of representing her school. Mentioning the name of your school and then using foul language, is on the same lines as having "bad" or "inappropriate" pictures of a student taken in their school uniform. In a case like that, a student might even be expelled from their school. In this case, I think the student got off fairly easily.

shanice tollin said...

If it wasn't on a school site, or done during school hours or with school equipment I think she should have been able to say what she wanted. What we do outside of school should not affect our in school lives.

Stephanie Klock said...

I don't feel as though her rights were violated. She exercised her freedom of speech. It does not say freedom of speech is void from consequences. If i wrote and editorial bashing a company and a month later applied for the job, i doubt I would get hired which are simply consequences for expressing my opinions.

Megan Minner said...

I don't think that her rights were violated at all. Yes, i do believe that you are permitted to express your feelings about people, administration or not, on your personal blogs. But seriously, was using the word "douchebags" the most appropriate?

meli said...

Is there no longer a difference between "inappropriate and illegal"? I find the fact that her case keeps getting thrown out fascinating. This seems very cut-and-dried first amendment rights to me.

Rob Stone said...

Like others, I don't see how this is not a violation of her rights and am, quite frankly, shocked to see her case dismissed relentlessly.

What better example of infringing upon the rights of an individual citizen could there be than a student criticizing the school administration (the concept of "douchebag" as an offensive term is purely subjective and thus, for me, this argument holds no ground) and consequently having her equal opportunity barred?

On top of this, the school in question is a public school, so I cannot justify the administration's actions. Very disappointing story to read about.

- Rob Stone