A high school student was suspended after calling his teacher a "fatass" on Facebook — and interestingly, the school's referring to it as "cyberbullying."
According to the NY Daily News, Donny Tobolski got a one-day suspension from Sacramento's Mesa Verde High School for calling his biology teacher a "fat ass who should stop eating fast food, and is a douchebag." The ACLU says Tobolski was within his rights to post the rant, and that the school should only discipline students for comments that actually threaten its functioning. Mesa Verde has apparently relented, at least somewhat — they expunged the suspension from Tobolski's permanent record (and we all know from The Wonder Years how important those are). Tobolski's statement is as inappropriate as it is inelegantly written, and he deserved some punishment — though perhaps his parents would have been a better authority to mete it out. We're more interested in whether his post was really "cyberbullying."
Facebook writings ("hot lists" being just one example) can definitely be a form of bullying when they're directed at other students. But a teacher isn't a peer — he's in a position of power over his students, and he's also not subject to the same pressures for acceptance among them. While Facebook slurs against teachers can still be hurtful and damaging, they don't quite accomplish the social ostracism that's often the goal of bullying — teachers are already outside their student's social groups, or at least they should be. So while it's important to teach kids that making prejudiced comments about their teachers isn't okay, it's also worth making a distinction between these comments and the ways kids mistreat one another — only the latter can really be considered "bullying."
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