MySpace suspensions raise questions on free speech rights

The growing popularity of online communities such as has started to present new issues when it comes to freedom of speech. As young people all over the United States make their own sites and connect with friends, schools are finding it difficult to stay out of students’ online lives.

Recently, a middle school student was suspended based on a threat posted on The personal posting is being investigated as a hate crime, and the student might even be expelled.

The boy is a student at TeWinkle Middle School in California and directed his comments at a fellow student. Parents are now questioning if the school district should have the authority to punish students for what they do at home on their personal computers.

Issuing threats on Web sites such as is not the best idea, and posting threats dealing with anti-Semitism is worse. But the problem is that administrators should not be monitoring students’ personal blogs and should not be infringing on the students’ rights.

When it comes down to it, parents, not school systems, should be overseeing exactly what their teens are doing while on the Internet at home. And parents should be the ones who discipline their children.

What is even more ridiculous about this particular situation in California is that 20 other students were suspended for viewing the threat, according to The Washington Post on March 3. This puts students who knew about the threat on the same level with the kid who made the threat. The school claims that the students were suspended because it concerns student safety, which just does not make sense.

Not only are school districts across the country disciplining students for certain postings on various blog Web sites, but also monitoring when students use them. Many schools do not allow students to view such Web sites on school computers; however, a few are taking it a step farther.

Some private schools are even restricting use of blogs. According to on Feb. 21, a school in New Jersey requires all students to remove their blogs from the Internet. The private school says they are attempting to protect students for sexual predators who access sites such as to look for potential victims. What students do in their free time should not concern the administration. Protecting students while they are at home is the responsibility of parents.

Students should use common sense when deciding what to put on a Web site that can be viewed by almost anyone. It’s impossible to know who will stumble on to your site next and what kind of trouble that could create. Ultimately, schools systems need to allow for free speech and give the disciplinary authority back to the parents.

The above editorial is the general consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.