Superintendent Bill Husfelt said disturbances have to be connected to remarks or posts and current policy covers what the district is allowed to do under the given authority of law when controversial posts are made.
BAY COUNTY – After a racist video circulated on social media and caused outrage in the community, the Bay District School Board reviewed the district’s social media policy during a workshop Tuesday. The board made no changes to existing policy – policies cannot be changed at workshops, which are chances to discuss matters.
In the video, a teenager threatened to shoot people coming into his home while using racist slurs. Current policy states behavior that qualifies for major disciplinary measures includes any posting on social networks or other avenues of communication which “causes a foreseeable risk of substantial disruption to the work or discipline at a district facility.”
The teenager was not at a district facility in the video and district officials have said the post was not school-related and had no specific threats mentioning students or a school.
“You cannot punish students for off-campus speech that was not school-sponsored or at a school-sponsored event or that causes no substantial disruption at school or could not reasonably be forecasted to do so,” said Franklin Harrison, board attorney.
Harrison mentioned previous legal cases where students said and did controversial things, with some judges siding with students since there were no disruptions and others siding with the district since students made specific threats against a teacher.
“This area is a First Amendment area, which is a very important area. It is one we have to live with with our Constitution,” said Harrison. “There are things that are said that we don’t like but that doesn’t mean people can’t say them. If what they say disrupts your educational process because of a problem in the school, absolutely you can discipline students for that.”
Superintendent Bill Husfelt said disturbances have to be connected to remarks or posts and current policy covers what the district is allowed to do under the given authority of law.
Kara Mulkusky, director of student services, said the district has recently handled cases where students posted threatening and menacing images and threatened to kill people at school, with the students either expelled or given alternative placement. Students often report to district officials when threatening posts are made, said Mulkusky.
“We really do have a community that lets us know when these things are out there,” Husfelt said. “It’s usually in minutes in the time that someone’s posted.”
Rev. Rufus Wood Jr., president of the Bay County branch of the NAACP, attended the workshop and afterwards called it a “waste of time” since he felt there were no recommendations for policy improvements.
The video “was disgusting, despicable and disrespectful to the community,” said Wood.
Activists in Bay County have called for the teenager to be arrested, though Sheriff Tommy Ford previously said the remarks did not fall within the parameters of a crime. Ford called the remarks in the video “disgusting and disturbing.” Board members also condemned the remarks, calling the language used “disturbing” and “asinine.”
“We’re naive not to think that this is not the last time we’ll probably have some type of inflammatory, incendiary type message posted on social media by one of our students,” Board Chairman Steve Moss said.