Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Social Media: Can it get you into Trouble?

Photo by Brian Kerrigan
by Shelby Cortez
           Have you ever thought that you could get in trouble at school because of your social media account? According to ABC News 4, a senior at the School of the Arts tweeted the “n-word” about another student, and got suspended for five days. Ashley Patrick’s mother is now suing the Charleston County School District to have her record cleared of any improper charges, and to have the school district pay for any legal fees.
This does not seem right. The student is the one that made the mistake. I personally also got in trouble for my social media account while in high school. I said some negative comments to another student, and I got called to the office the following Monday morning. I was fortunate enough to not get in too much trouble, but one thing that my Vice Principal taught me from this: if it affects the learning environment, then it has everything to do with the school. In this pending legal case, the student affected the learning environment through her racism. Patrick may feel that this has nothing to do with the school, but with social media taking over our daily lives, she will soon learn how much her tweeting can affect her off-line life. For example, if she were to have a job and post derogatory things about that job, there is a very good chance she would get reprimanded or fired for this kind of behavior. She should learn this lesson now.
I understand how Ashley and her family think that the school district went too far suspending her for five days, and having her miss five days of learning, but hopefully this is a lesson well learned. Schools need to teach real-life lessons, and this is a real-life lesson. Parents often think they are helping their children by stepping in with situations such as this one, but all they are doing is keeping them from learning important lessons. I feel that the student had the correct punishment.

Patrick used poor judgment, not only in attacking another student through a tweet, but also about what she chose to say. I believe that this was a lesson well learned about the larger society’s refusal to accept racism for Patrick and for other students thinking of doing something similar. ABC 4 News reports that in addition to Ashley using her Twitter account to call a student a vulgar name, she actually called the other student one of the worst words you can use in today’s society, the “n-word.” This tweet was intended to be malicious, which is why the school district had to go down hard on her, and give her five days of suspension, 20 hours of community service, and a 500-word essay on racism and social media assignment to present at a school board meeting. Hopefully, she will learn the seriousness of using such an awful word towards other people, and what it really means.
Another reason that the school district went so hard on Patrick is because social media is really taking over our lives, and changing so many things. An example of this is how social media is affecting our jobs. In my current position, we have to sign a form stating that we will not use our personal social media accounts to talk about the business, period. Fox News reports that a barista in Seattle lost his position because of an anonymous blog that he had, where he would vent about his customers, and his boss. This situation is similar.
The barista, Matt, never actually said his personal information, where he worked, any information about his boss, or about his customers. He really was only venting about his daily “grind.” Unfortunately, however, when it came out that he was the barista behind this anonymous blog, the company had no choice but to fire him, otherwise it would look as though they condone this kind of behavior. The relation between these two stories is that social media has an effect on more than we think. If the school district chose to look beyond this post, they would be condoning it, and not be preparing students for the real world.
I do understand how Patrick and her family would be upset over the punishment. Patrick’s mother’s argument that her daughter missed five valuable days of learning, and had this affect her academic record, is right. It will affect her. But if she faced no consequences for her actions, what would this be teaching not only Ashley, but other students growing up in today’s society? It would be teaching them that their actions online have no consequences with the real world, when in fact they do. This is not the correct action to take with our children. Instead, her parents should have sat her down and explained the seriousness of the situation and supported the school board.
Social media is changing our world as we know it, and if we don’t start holding people accountable, then when will we? Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are only some of the websites that people, along with companies, are using to communicate and network. This new form of communication is coming with new rules that we must follow, and consequences if we don’t. Although Ashley’s punishment may seem harsh, I feel that it is the best way to teach her that the online world is not separate from the real world, and what she does there has consequences here.

For further reading

“School of the Arts senior files suit against CCSD.”ABC New 4. 10 June 2013. Web. 17 June 2013.
“Seattle barista fired over bitter blog that rips customers, boss.” Fox News. 12 February 2013. Web. 17 June 2013


Post a Comment