Schools Consider Punishing Student-Athletes for Racist Tweets
When the Washington Capitals' Joel Ward scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 7 last week, ousting the defending champion Boston Bruins from the playoffs, a few students got sucked into the ugly side of the Internet.
Dozens of racist, hateful comments started emerging on Twitter targeted at Ward, one of 28 African-American players in the National Hockey League, according to the Associated Press. We won't be re-printing those comments here, but suffice it to say, there were "n-words" a plenty emerging from Boston fans.
At Gloucester (Mass.) High School, school officials are considering punishing at least three student-athletes and two other students who chimed in with derogatory tweets, according to the Gloucester Times.
They're not the only school to do so, either. At least two other students in the New England area are facing potential discipline from their schools for similar tweets, according to the Boston Herald.
In the case of the Gloucester students, the Times found at least three who had tweeted racist remarks, although all have since deleted their accounts. Superintendent Richard Safier told the paper: "We are conducting a full investigation and will consider whether disciplinary action is warranted, and whether the schools have jurisdiction."
That last part will be the key. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year refused to take up appeals involving school discipline of online student speech, leaving the state of the law unclear. The question ultimately becomes: Does the landmark 1969 decision of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District apply to students' out-of-school speech?
Regardless of any potential discipline, Safier also told the paper that the school would "implement a strong educational component that looks at the social, moral, and legal aspects of such remarks."
Boston is no stranger to racial tension, as USA Today explained in response to the incident. John Thompson Jr., a former Boston Celtic, said last week on the radio that the incident "rips a scab off," according to Richard Prince of the Maynard Institute.
It's a credit to Safier that he's already finding lessons to teach students from the incident. These won't be the last students to ever make a mistake putting something out on social media that they didn't intend for the entire world to see. (They likely won't even be the last students to do so this week.)
Short of eliminating racism in all students—something that isn't likely to happen any time soon, unfortunately—schools can at least teach students to avoid similar situations by keeping their thoughts private. If nothing else, offline.
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