GRANITE CITY — Granite City High School has suspended 10 students over comments made and repeated on social media that officials called inappropriate and potentially dangerous.
Principal Jim Greenwald said the disciplinary action taken last week centers on comments about teachers by students that were then retweeted or favorited by their peers.
Four other female students also were suspended Wednesday after the district found that one of them previously commented on Twitter about bombing the school so they would not have to attend the first day of classes. Her three friends then retweeted, or shared, the comment.
“We don’t go out looking for individual comments on the Internet, but when it threatens or compromises a person’s sexual integrity or there are comments or threats pertaining to school safety, then that does become school business,” Greenwald said.
He said the comments and the retweets directly violated several parts of the school handbook, which all students sign at the beginning of the school year. Whether a student made the comment or decided to repeat it by retweeting it made no difference, he said.
Many students have since rallied on social media to call the suspensions excessive.
Sophomore DeAndre Williams was one of the students suspended Wednesday for retweeting a comment about a female teacher made by a friend. He said he believed the school overreacted with the suspensions and should have just given a warning. He would have apologized to the teacher, he said.
“It wasn’t even during school hours,” he said. “I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was at home with my friends when I saw it on Twitter. I laughed, and I retweeted.”
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The Granite City High School’s 53-page student handbook includes a short section on “Blogging/Social Websites” that warns students of consequences for a post “that causes school students or staff members to feel threatened or compromised.
“Disciplinary action may be taken in response to postings containing threats, bullying, inappropriate pictures, allegations of inappropriate behavior or such content that is likely to cause disruption in the school,” the policy states.
Another section references “Inappropriate Language/Behavior.” That bans “any type of misconduct or disrespect to a staff member off campus.”
Assistant Principal Skip Birdsong said students need to understand that posting on the Internet is the equivalent of taking an ad out in a newspaper.
“What’s the difference there? It’s in print. It’s the same thing,” he said.
Williams’ father said he is considering legal action against the school. DeAndre, an honors student and point guard on the Granite City Warriors basketball team, said he is worried about his college future.
“I plan to go to a Division I college and play,” he said. “I’ve played since I was 4. This might affect my chances.”