Schools Should Not be able to Seek Out Students' "Like" History and Punish Them

Teddy F. - LLI Cincinnati

Schools should not be able to seek out students like history and punish them because it's a direct violation of their right to freedom of speech. Social Media is a place to share ideas and information. So, a "like" can be you showing an interest in an idea, supporting someone’s ideas, and sometimes you may randomly "like" a picture.

On the News Article “U.S Court Says ‘Liking’ Something on Facebook is Free Speech,” it explains how a "like" is considered free speech. This article was about six employees at the Hampton sheriff’s office that were fired for liking their boss’s opponent during his election. The U.S Circuit Judge Williams statement on the situation was that "liking" something on social media was, “the Internet’s equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard.” This act has been ruled protected speech. So how do these two beliefs correspond with each other? Liking a political post is the exact same thing as placing a sign on your front yard saying, “Vote for Jim Adams” or “I support Jim Adams."

Another example of a time free speech was disrupted by a school (I will only say "liking" is free speech because that’s what it is) was at Albany High School. In the article “Students Suspended for ‘Liking’ Racist Instagram Posts Sue School,” the school suspended a student for "liking" racist post on social media. Racism is a terrible idea, but you cannot forget that "liking" or even posting a picture of racism is free speech. It would’ve stopped being free speech and become hate speech if there were threats sent to the African American race, but there were none. Aaron Caplan, a professor at Loyola Law school in LA, stated, “students are entitled to speak just like everyone else when they're OFF Campus.” Attorney Darryl Yorkey also stated “people of this age click ‘like’ to pretty much everything.”

Let me ask you this question: Would you enjoy being suspended from school for "liking" a picture or using your right to free speech off campus? Most would say no, so do I. If you don’t agree on that, I’m sure you can agree that "likes" are ambiguous- they can mean anything. Going back to my original point, "likes" can be random, or you showing interest in something, or showing support for someone or something.

My last piece of support comes from the article “Middle School Student Suspended for ‘Liking’ Photo of a Gun on Instagram.” This case actually made me insane. I say this because attempting to understand why the student was suspended will make your head hurt. This student was suspended for just "LIKING" a photo of a gun- no commenting, no repost, no threat, just a "like". It’s sad to think that the fact that you "like" a photo of a gun can be seen as dangerous.

A personal story of mine is my friend’s dad. My friend’s dad collects guns, exotic types, historical, and actual props from movies. If my friend wanted to post a picture of the collected guns, would he be suspended from school? He’s just showing he has an interest. 

That’s the question you must ask yourself:  When you think of this case, is showing interest in something that some may see as bad or wrong punishable? 

I enjoy cooking, and if I post a picture of something I’ve made, how is a picture of something I made different than a picture of a gun that someone likes? It’s not. It’s the exact same thing. This is what made my head hurt trying to understand the justifications. I always look at something with open eyes. I just can’t see where the school is justified for suspending this student.

Through all the supports I have presented, other than "likes", one thing stays the same, bias. In my first piece of support, the employees were fired for their boss’s bias or personal belief. Their boss didn’t like that his employees were supporting his opponent. Ask yourself this question: you like the Cleveland Cavaliers, but your friend likes the Gold State Warriors, does that honestly mean you two can’t be friends because of your beliefs and interest in a team?

My second piece of support, when the students where suspended for liking a racist post was also bias. Racism can’t be defined by one thing. Racism to some people isn’t the same for others. If the students thought it wasn’t racist, and the school did, that’s where bias comes to play. The school isn’t going off racism, they're going off beliefs. What they believe to be racist.

Think on this for a second: do you think calling a black person the N word is racist? Do you think calling a Caucasian person the C word is racist? Depending on the person you ask this question to, you’ll get different answers. 

And to my last piece of evidence, when a middle schooler was suspended for "liking" a gun, I call this biased because no one thought different than “school shooter or threat.” None had the mindset of maybe the boy has an interest in guns or creating them. People only saw that this middle schooler "liking" a post of a gun was bad. What makes me, in a way, feel for this boy is that he didn’t understand that people would think this way about him "liking" a post. The post might’ve said "ready" but, "ready" can mean multiple things. This boy just wanted to do what I stated in my first paragraph, show his interest.

Other than bias you can also notice these are all underage kids who are being suspended. If someone in college was to post the exact same thing, they wouldn't be given any problems because of age. Why is it that when you're young, doing something that someone older does is seen as bad? Should a student in college be treated the same way as a student in High School or Middle School. I think that colleges would hold more regards for a student posting something than a high school. People must understand that kids will act like kids. So you can’t be ethnocentric in the context that a child thinks exactly like you.


Sources Considered

  • Robbins, Ira P. "What is the Meaning of 'Like'?: The First Amendment Implications of Social-Media Expression." American University Washington College of Law Research Paper, vol. 7, issue 1, no. 2013-14, 2013, pp. 144-147.
  • Kelly, Heather. "U.S. Court Saying 'Liking' Something on Facebook is Free Speech." CNN. 19 Sept. 2013. 
  • "Students Suspended for 'Liking' Racist Instagram Posts Sue School." CBS Sacramento. CBS Interactive. 5 May 2017. 
  • Brown, Ken. "Middle School Student Suspended for 'Liking' Photo of Gun on Instagram." Fox 19 Now. WXIX. 5 May 2017. 
  • Knuth, Sara. "Cañon City High School to Discipline Students for 'Liking' Tweet." Education. The Daily Record. 13 Oct. 2016.
  • Walton, Xavier. "Over 20 NC Students Suspended for Liking Instagram Post." WCNC. 21 March 2017. 
  • Dinzeo, Maria. "Judge Wrestles with School's Handling of Racial Cyberbullying." Courthouse News Service. 27 July 2017.