Say whatever you like, as long as you are responsible for what you say and the implications of it. And, as I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, that’s even more important when you’re “speaking” on the Internet and broadcasting your words all over the place, where they can be read by anyone and interpreted in many different ways.
A couple of days ago, a student at an Indiana high school was expelled for writing a profanity-laced Tweet, which went like this:
F*** is one of those F****** words you can F****** put anywhere in a F****** sentence and it still F****** makes sense.
The immature high schooler in me wants to giggle at that quote, but exactly what this student wrote is not the point. The first point is that he wrote the Tweet at 2:30 in the morning at his home — not even on school grounds. The second point is that the Tweet wasn’t threatening in any way.
Teenagers use profane language all the time, both inside and outside of school. It’s practically a rite of passage that we all go through. But I still believe the school system was wrong to expel this student. I could understand giving him detention or some other kind of punishment, but not expulsion. If you take a look around Twitter (or any social networking site), you can read many more Tweets far more offensive and profane than the one above, often written by middle schoolers. And if every student was expelled for using language like this, either online or offline, there would be no students left in high school or middle school. I personally think school officials have bigger fish to fry than to worry about what students are Tweeting, especially since this Tweet seems fairly harmless.
Even so, the main lesson to be learned from this is one I’ve repeated many times before: Be careful what you say online. There are people watching you, whether you realize it or not. Anyone, from your high school principal to your grandma to the mailman, can read anything you post online… and interpret it however they like. Yes, you have freedom of speech. But with freedom comes responsibility.