Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gapers Block -- Looking Over Your Xanga

The Plainfield South controversy gets I described in Blogspulsion? gets a mention over at Gapers Block:

In more School Boards vs. Blogs news, a 17-year-old student in Plainfield School District 202 has been suspended and threatened with expulsion because of his criticism on his blog of the school's disciplining of another student. His site isn't accessible from the school's computers, but administrators are saying that his comments caused "a disturbance at school".

They link this article in the Chicago Tribune.

It's just a blurb, but I think it too superficially characterizes what happened. "Criticism" is bloodless when compared to the actual post, and unjustifiably elevates its adolescent vulgarity. Referring to "the school's disciplining of another student" as a descriptor of the activities, an act of petty arson and threatening statements which named a school official, rather understates the actions. He wasn't just smoking in the parking lot. Finally, Gaper's Block frames the issue in terms of the school visiting a place that has been blocked by the school's own computers. This buys into a theme that I saw on the student pages. They were generally stupefied by the fact administrators went to Xanga at all, and assumed they must have done so after hours on their own time out of sheer boredom.

It apparently didn't occur to them that administrators at the school might have a different level of security on the network, or that officials felt it was necessary to review Xanga because it related to their duties as officials. Further, there is an entire blog ring devoted to the school at Xanga, linked to dozens of student sites. Having viewed just a handful I can say that there are probably a number of students at that school who would be unamused by fires in the bathroom and vague, aggressive open letters to the school. It is not at all unlikely that the officials who found the site did so after being notified by another student.

Again, I think none of the talk about free speech makes a lot of sense until we understand the underlying activities that took place on these blogs. I don't think this is a simple issue at all, and it wearies to see all these stories pop-up that fail to do justice to the back story at Plainfield.

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