The Kirkwood Call

Punishments for Tweets raise questions

by Claire Salzman

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Josh Spiller was angry. One of his teachers sent him to the office after he refused to hand over his phone in class. Thursday, Feb. 2, during the school day, Spiller, junior, fired off a Tweet, cursing at his teacher. He thought that was the end of the situation. But Monday, Spiller said, Mike Gavin, junior class principal, called him to his office alerting him his teacher saw the Tweet. The teacher then brought the Tweet to the administration, and Spiller was given three days of out-of-school suspension.

“I felt that it was a violation of my rights,” Spiller said.  “It was wrong of me to say it, but I still had the right.”

That Tuesday, administrators went on the announcements to discuss social media regulations at KHS, stating anything posted on Twitter would be considered the same as a face-to-face conversation. According to Dr. Michael Havener, principal, the administration felt it was reminding students what behavior is appropriate as described by the school handbook.

“We wanted to make sure students knew two things,” Havener said. “One: Twitter’s a good tool. Two: it also can be a tool that can be used the wrong way, and vulgar language toward a staff member or threats is just like saying it to staff member. When you use it in a negative way toward staff members, it’s just like you’re saying it in the classroom.”

Mike Hiestand, Student Press Law Center (SPLC) consulting lawyer, an organization that advocates student First Amendment rights, disagrees that Twitter is a personal conversation.
“[Administrators] can’t just say that Tweets are the same as face-to-face communication because, well, it’s not the same as face-to-face communication,” Heistand said. “If they can prove that a particular Tweet had the same sort of impact as a face-to-face meeting that seriously disrupted some normal school activity, then maybe they can justify their punishment. But most Tweets, obviously, aren’t that powerful.”

Mike Wade, sophomore class principal, understands why students may say the emotional and potentially hurtful things they post online. However, he warns them of the lack of privacy due to the constant possibility that someone could see it.

“I think you’re frustrated and you’re angry, and you spurt. But guess what? You’re spurting to the world. You’re not just spurting to your friends anymore,” Wade said. “In a school where we can all have our iPads and our iPhones and our computers, all bets are off. It’s a different world. There are so many good things this could be used for academically, but it’s not for complaining about a teacher.”
Including Spiller (who has since returned to school), two students have been punished within the last month for using Twitter in what the student handbook deems an inappropriate way.  The handbook, which contains guidelines for how social media should be used, states if conflict occurs on the Internet and creates a disruption in the classroom, the administration will evaluate them according to disciplinary guidelines. According to Gavin, the definition of a disruption has been left “intentionally vague.” This allows administrators to judge each incident case by case, leaving the decision on whether to become involved in the incident up to the administration’s discretion.

While 64 percent (89/134) of students feel the administration’s supervision of Twitter violates the First Amendment, Havener said the principals are looking out for the good of the student body.

“It’s not about taking away First Amendment Rights. It’s about using a tool in an appropriate manner and keeping everyone safe and secure,” Havener said. “We’re a strong believer in First Amendment Rights here at Kirkwood. However, with that comes responsibility.”

Leave a Comment

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




Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • Punishments for Tweets raise questions

    Police Beat

    Police Beat: 1/8-1/14

  • Punishments for Tweets raise questions

    News

    If I can help somebody: Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

  • Punishments for Tweets raise questions

    News

    Students head to Jefferson City for new voices hearing

  • Punishments for Tweets raise questions

    Police Beat

    Police Beat: 1/1-1/7

  • Punishments for Tweets raise questions

    News

    New KSD superintendent announced

  • Punishments for Tweets raise questions

    News

    The good, the bad and the laptops

  • Punishments for Tweets raise questions

    News

    Gratitude for girls fundraiser

  • Punishments for Tweets raise questions

    News

    30 years since Hazelwood: Why the First Amendment matters

  • Punishments for Tweets raise questions

    News

    Search for a superintendent update

  • Punishments for Tweets raise questions

    News

    Top five news stories from 2017

Student newspaper of Kirkwood High School.
Punishments for Tweets raise questions