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Free Speech or Stupidity?

eSchool News has a story about a teacher who has been suspended because his district objects to material on his web site.

“The Grove City Area School District placed music teacher and assistant band director Dan Konnen, 24, of Hermitage, Pa., on an unpaid suspension in March when students found his personal web site, which contains jokes about genitalia and scatological references extracted from the controversial Comedy Central cartoon series South Park, as well as other sources.”

Evidently the site, which was still live as of this posting, was created when he was still in college and probably doesn’t contain anything more offensive than you’d find in an episode of South Park (which seems much tamer than it did when it first went on the air).

I’m not sure whether I’m angry that a teacher’s First Amendment rights are being violated or feel that the guy is rather stupid for leaving that stuff on the web. There have been dozens of court cases over the rights of students to publish questionable material, often highly critical of their schools and teachers, on their web sites. In every case that I’ve read about, the courts ruled in favor of the student.

Teachers are another matter. School boards are, for the most part, a very conservative bunch, especially when it comes to teachers saying or doing anything that may draw attention. (A quick look at the Grove City district’s web site should tell you that there are no liberal thinkers running this outfit!*)

This is a rather trivial issue, however, compared to teachers who are fired over genuine First Amendment issues. More than a few have been fired for participating in anti war or other protests over the past two years. That is a much clearer violation of constitutional rights than this situation but it’s all part of the same mix. Of course, Ashcroft and friends haven’t finished their rewrite of the Constitution yet so that may change.

*I’ll save the rant about their web design for another day.

1 Comment

  1. Abby

    I think this is a ridiculous case. I unfortunately have been drawn into it myself. Since I was one of many students to visit Mr. Konnen’s website, they are asking me to testify against him, which is against my beliefs. I thought he was a good teacher, and I think I can speak for the majority of the students in band when I say this. He was well liked, and his website was not found to be disgusting or inappropriate, from a student’s point of view. There are much worse things that people look up everyday, for instance like pornography, or how to construct a bomb similar to the Colombine shooting. So why not focus on more important issues like that? Instead they choose to get rid of a really good teacher that was well liked by everyone, and want some of his students to testify against him. I don’t think so. If i have to go, I might start out on the school’s side, but I will let it be known that I do not, and never will be in favor of the district.

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