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Monday, January 31, 2011

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

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 5:01 PM

click to enlarge Give me liberty or give me death, douche bags!
  • 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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Peter Jamison

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