A nationally-known website has targeted teenagers who posted racially-charged, anti-Obama messages on social networking sites after the presidential election. The website Jezebel not only identified the underage students — but also contacted their schools to report their offensive online postings.
“Several of the teens use imagery of their high schools’ sports teams on their Twitter accounts and Facebook pages,” Tracie Egan Morrissey wrote. “If nothing else, it’s reasonable to alert administrators to the behavior of the students who are publicly representing their schools.”
Some of the tweets the teenagers posted were filled with racist language and hate speech – including several messages that used the “n” word. The web site reported that some schools were taking the tweets of the underage young people “very seriously.”
One of the children targeted by Jezebel attends West Islip High School in New York. The principal told the New York Daily News that he was “very offended” by the student’s alleged remarks and that he would be “taking the necessary steps to address.”
“It leads one to wonder whether their interventions in the matter will help these teenagers to become more understanding of racial sensitivities – or if they will just become angry, and if that anger will become displaced and only serve to intensify their hate,” Morrissey wrote.
Nevertheless, they said students who posted anti-Obama messages need to be taught a lesson.
“Whatever the case, they surely will have learned about how their conversations on social media are not private and that their words do, indeed, have an impact,” she wrote.
Paul Kengor, executive director of the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College, said he was alarmed at the chilling impact of a news publication targeting young people.
“I’m not surprised,” Kengor told Fox News. “Any conservative can tell you about the huge number of emails and tweets and whatever else bashing Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin, George Bush and numerous other Republicans in the most vile and obscene ways.”
“But only when it happens to Obama do groups like this give it their attention, and then the liberal media magnifies them in kind,” he said. “It quickly becomes a national scandal.”
It’s not the first time students or teachers have come under fire for opposing President Obama. In October a Philadelphia teacher ridiculed a young girl for wearing a Mitt Romney t-shirt to class. The teacher compared her shirt to a KKK robe. The teacher eventually apologized but the student transferred to another school.
And last year another teacher was captured on video telling her students that criticizing President Obama was a crime punishable by jail.”
So can teenagers be punished for posting racially offensive messages on their social networking sites?
“Historically, the courts have said that free speech outside the classroom can’t be punished by the school,” said Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center. “But increasingly we are seeing some decisions to punish young people – arguing that what they post on their Twitter account can be potentially disruptive to a classroom.”
Paulson said the “Twitter dynamic has sort of set everything on its ear.”
In the past, the news media has been protective of teenagers who get caught making mistakes. The theory, Paulson explained, is that if you are 16 years old and get caught shoplifting, it’s an immature act and you have a chance to clean up your act.
But that dynamic has shifted.
“In the age of social media, when a young person uses their own name and their own photo and in effect broadcasts their message to potentially thousands or hundreds of thousands – it’s really difficult to say we want to be protective of them,” he told Fox News.
Kengor wondered if conservatives should establish a national conservative website dedicated to “doing nothing but documenting liberal hate.”
“There’s certainly enough material,” he said.