Revere High School – Doublethink Appears Again.

A senior and captain of the cheerleading team named Caley Godino at Revere High in Massachusetts was suspended from all social activities for the rest of the year after she sent out a tweet on voting.

The situation arose, Godino said, on Nov. 4, the day after the City Election.

She was on a field trip outside the school building when she and other students got a Tweet from her Civics teacher. The Tweet was to spur thought about the low voter turnout in the City Election – saying only 10 percent of Revere ended up voting, and what the students thought about that. (Turnout was actually about 41 percent in the last City Election, rather than 10 percent).

Godino Tweeted back, “10 percent of Revere voted because the others are not legal.”

Godino said it wasn’t meant to hurt anyone. School officials have said they don’t believe she had any ill intentions, either.

However, the Tweet took off and people began to send messages back saying it wasn’t right. She immediately realized she had probably made a mistake, and deleted the Tweet.

The school was not happy with the tweet. Neither were some of the students who threatened Godino.

One person said they were going to wait for the bus to come back to the field trip; some soccer players said they were going to get their [slur deleted] crew and come for her; others said slurs about white people in Spanish and English.

“Reverse racism is not real,” read one Tweet.

“Is it possible to be racist to a white person?” read another.

The school initially said Godino’s speech was protected by the First Amendment, but the next day reversed course and told Godino she was suspended from all social activities at the school for the remainder of the year. That meant no more cheerleading, no dances, no prom, no Senior Night, no anything.

It is here that the doublethink we talked about yesterday comes into play.

But after other students complained, the school stepped in. Revere Superintendent Dianne Kelly says the district believes in freedom of speech, but cannot support what she calls insensitive language.

“If you’re going to stand up and say something that other people will find offensive, then you need to be prepare to deal with the ramifications of that,” Kelly said.

We agree that free speech may have consequences, but it is not up to the government to say what is allowable to be said. “You can have free speech as long as we approve of it” is not free speech.

While Godino was suspended, the students that made the threats were not disciplined at all. One could argue that the threats were “free speech,” but speech doesn’t cover what the law calls “real threats” or threats that people believe will happen. How real were the threats?

Godino said she was never completely worried for her safety, but the schools certainly were.

“The administration was definitely worried about my safety and asked if I wanted a police officer to escort me to and from classes,” she said. “I said ‘no’ because I’ve known these kids for four years and gone to school with them. I think a lot are social media thugs and all talk on this. When it came to kids from other schools, I was a little bit frightened because the Chelsea and Everett Tweets were from kids I didn’t know. I got dirty looks at school, but nothing major.”

The school believed the threats were real, but yet did nothing.

But that’s exactly what happened, said Godino and her family, including her mother Lauren Kelly, and they said they are trying to sort out why it is that Godino was punished for her comment, and others were not punished for the threats.

“They just didn’t give me clear answers,” said Godino. “I still don’t exactly understand why I am in trouble…I can’t go to any school events and I got removed from the cheerleading team and I can’t even attend a game. It’s my senior year and I was the captain of the team. I missed all my tournaments and I hadn’t even had senior night…Some of the kids from the soccer team who actually threatened me with their Tweets had a state tournament soccer game the day I showed their threats to the school and they still played. They had another game a few days later and they played in that too. I was wondering if they would get to play and I checked and they did.”

The school is hiding behind “student privacy” and saying that Godino was not suspended for the tweet alone. Gidino’s mom agrees:

Caley’s mother told us the school decided to discipline her daughter because of the intense backlash.

The backlash caused the suspension? The school stood by and not only reacted to but supported the idea of a “heckler’s veto?” And the school wants to say it supports free speech?

The First Amendment exists to protect unpopular speech. Speech that everyone agrees with doesn’t need protection. It is the unpopular speech and ideas that need protecting. Apparently a school full of educators missed that part.

But there is this:

Because of this controversy, the school is now creating a group of teachers and students to come up with a curriculum about diversity and acceptance.

The irony of a kid getting suspended for something she tweeted in regards to a Civics class is not lost on us. Instead of formulating a curriculum that deals with the Constitution, laws and rights – actual Civics – the school believes it needs to have a class on “diversity and acceptance.”

(We wonder if a theme will be “you may exercise your right to freedom of speech with our approval.”)

The kid who made an innocuous and admittedly bad joke or comment can’t attend any school social events, but the kids who made what the school considered to be real threats were allowed to participate and represent the school in outside activities?

Where is the reasoning behind that? Where is the justice of that?

Eugene Volokh has a great article on the subject as well was covering the legal cases on the Washington Post blog “The Volokh Conspiracy.”

Godino’s mom must have used some of that research because she took legal cases to the school and got them to change the suspension so it ended in early December. While that is a “win” in the short term, it doesn’t address what happened and doesn’t change the fact that free speech is not speech which requires or needs the the approval of the government.

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