I'm really feeling for those five students - none of them known troublemakers - suspended from Birchmount Collegiate for saying nasty things about their Vice Principal on the FaceBook internet forum.
After the suspensions, a small demonstration turned tense when the usual shit disturbers joined in and started throwing things at the cops. Talk about escalation.
It makes you wonder what would have happened if the school authorities had just let the students know that their FaceBook postings were visible to all - including their targets - and that they should just cease and desist. That would have been the end of the story - no near riots, no bad publicity.
When word came of the disturbances at Birchmount following the suspensions, I thought the school got what it deserved. Take Draconian action and students will rebel.
Bullying their teachers? Give me a break. The kids never even sent the postings directly to the person they were targetting. And besides, the whole point of the school system's anti-bullying policy is to stop the playground bully from harassing the vulnerable kid who can't fight back. It's to stop boyfriends from verbally abusing girlfriends. The idea is to protect the powerless from the powerful. Let's get it straight: teachers, not students, have all the power.
A teacher friend and a legal expert in the field reminded me that were I to trash the boss, I'd pay a price. The difference is that if I lost a job, I can go look for another one. But kids are virtually incarcerated by law in the school system and don't have any other educational alternatives.
Don't get me wrong. An anti-bullying policy is valuable and, yes, everyone within school communities should treat each and talk to each other with respect. But hormone-driven students simply have to vent. I did it with my friends regularly, in the cafeteria, in the gym, in the school parking lot, And most of the time, our teachers deserved whatever vicious pet names we gave them.
The school authorities are saying the kids crossed a line - though they can't disclose exactly how - and that existing policies demanded that the police be brought in and action taken.
And that - the instantaneous, zero tolerance, punish now not later approach, especially in the grey area of ever-morphing technologies a problem - is the problem.
What happens when rules have zero give? Deep conflict.