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Letter to the Editor: Boundaries of students’ free speech need clarity

Creative+Commons+Photo+by+Scott+Kim+via+Scott+Kim+Simply+Photos.
Creative Commons Photo by Scott Kim via Scott Kim Simply Photos.

Creative Commons Photo by Scott Kim via Scott Kim Simply Photos.

Creative Commons Photo by Scott Kim via Scott Kim Simply Photos.

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Written by Cole Williams

Dear Editor,

In today’s world, politics are all around us. From our phones and social media to the nation’s news in the evenings, politics is everywhere. As high schoolers, they affect us more than ever. Everybody at Metea and in our country has an opinion. Thanks to the Bill of Rights, we get to speak them. However, when does speaking our mind pass into forcing ideas down other’s throats, What are the right places to express our views and when? Furthermore, do our classes meet those criteria?

With today’s society, everyone needs to be careful to not step on anyone else’s toes or a single word could offend a whole group. A debate can turn into a fight with a single phrase or an assumption could have negative consequences. With the large separation of views and political opinions that differ among students and staff, freedom of speech and student rights are kind of in a gray area.

To make it even more difficult, the school district does very little to explain the borders of the regulations. Even in the school handbook, the dress code has no limits on political apparel. There is also no section on freedom of speech and what is considered acceptable on school grounds. With no set guidelines, students are left to read between the lines, with many different interpretations. So, the big question is: as students, what are we allowed to do? And more importantly, what are we not allowed to do?

Students should have the right to speak their mind, as long as they don’t step over the line. We need to think before we speak, because what offends one person might be normal for another. Teachers should be there not only to monitor the students, but also to join in. The staff has the right to speak their mind and partake in discussions, or explain their views. It is a two-way relationship, and one group shouldn’t take complete advantage of that. The school needs to set guidelines and enforce them. The district should make it clear for everyone on what the expectations are. While the government’s role isn’t required until there is a removal of rights, some finer definitions wouldn’t be unwarranted. Overall, from everyone in the district to the government to the students themselves, all parties have a role to play.

So what do you think? Should students have full access to do and say what they want? What about accountability? Should it be up to each individual staff member? Do teachers need to express their party so that their students don’t say the wrong thing? No matter what the outcome, what is important is to find a balance with not just debate, but also respect.

6 Comments

6 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: Boundaries of students’ free speech need clarity”

  1. Nate B on February 16th, 2017 10:05 am

    Students should have the right to say whatever they want until it becomes slander.

    [Reply]

  2. Don on February 16th, 2017 10:22 am

    > With today’s society, everyone needs to be careful to not step on anyone else’s toes or a single word could offend a whole group.

    Agreed, but with a big HOWEVER. While we should be careful not to purposely set out to offend someone, it should never be a limit on Free Speech (caps purposeful) just because someone might get offended. IMHO, some people get offended way too easily, assuming (as you mentioned) negative intent where none was present. Contrary to the current PC environment, no one has a right not to be offended. Public discourse can be messy. Shutting it down because of one complaint is wrong. The newspaper staff has almost certainly had one or more talks with their faculty adviser about the limits of Freedom of the Press, which are even more restrictive in a school. Free Speech in a school is necessarily more restrictive than on a street corner because of the need to maintain discipline and order so that the learning environment isn’t disrupted. Strong opinions, heated discussions, and an honest, RESPECTFUL, or passionate exchange of opinions should not be considered disruptive. If such an exchange goes beyond respectful, we still shouldn’t shut down all discourse around a particular subject. We should seek out and punish the ones who escalated it beyond the bounds of civil discourse. That could even be the person who was offended.

    [Reply]

  3. Student who is from a school on February 16th, 2017 2:15 pm

    I believe that people need to stop being so sensitive and offended. If we were not so sensitive/easily offended, we would be able to have the positive discussions that Don is talking about.

    [Reply]

  4. Bobby Joe on February 17th, 2017 8:13 am

    no

    [Reply]

  5. Balkin Tuffle on February 17th, 2017 8:35 am

    People shouldn’t get triggered on the voice, and opinion of others. Especially when its something like, someone saying the N-Word to their group of friends, and another person hears it and calls him/her racist. It’s dumb, just let people over use the word to the point where it has no more meaning. If you tell someone to “drink bleach” alot, it loses its original meaning of trying to get them to off themselves. Because, overusing a word or phrase to me, makes that word lose it’s original meaning. And if we can do that and get people to not get triggered over the smallest things cause they can’t clearly define a joke between actual hate, then the borders of free speech will become very clear. That day will not come soon though, even if Trump is president, people are still going to be offended by anything he does. For example, his policies were implemented before, like the muslim ban, but no one hates Obama, Bush, or Reagan for doing these things. They just need someone to target. Summing it all up, people need to learn to let go, quit being triggered, and to try to over use words where as they lose their original meaning and context.

    [Reply]

  6. John on May 24th, 2017 10:29 am

    I think Metea Media needs to stop publishing Liberal propoganda.

    [Reply]

Thank you for adding your voice to the conversation. Please note that all comments are moderated. Metea Media will not publish comments if they contain the following:

▸ Rude or obscene language (i.e. swear words, sexual jokes, violent threats, etc.)
▸ Hate speech (i.e. racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.)
▸ Insults towards a specific student or a teacher
▸ Content that is irrelevant to the article or does not add to the discussion
▸ Attempts to imply comments were written by a person other than the author

Refer to the student handbook for further specifics on what is considered appropriate.

The Social Media Editor will read and evaluate all comments. Should there be any issues with a particular comment, the Social Media Editor will consult the newspaper adviser and Online Editor-in-Chief.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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