Role Models And Freedom Of Speech

One of the  Diva Den has encountered what happens when you exercise your right to free speech, and learned that sometimes that freedom of expression comes  with a price, or consequences.

My niece attends a local vocational high school and as a senior this year she was asked to participate in Junior Day.  She’d be helping out with basically orienting the junior class coming in as to how things operate and what is acceptable and not acceptable.  One thing had to do with attire.  She was asked to dress in an inappropriate manner to show  as the example  of what is not going to be tolerated in fashion when at school.  She has a Twitter account and posted a tweet referencing the  teacher that  asked and saying she  had been asked to dress like a slut.  Could she have chosen better words and left out the teacher’s name? Certainly.  But she invoked her freedom of expression and it cost her, the price: she isn’t allowed to participate in Junior Day and she was called to the principle’s office to remove the tweet.

Seems the school, in a district that has to  keep cutting the budget, can afford to hire people to monitor student’s  Facebooks, Twitter accounts etc looking for derogatory remarks about  teachers, other students and the schools.  Yes,  when they cannot afford TEACHERS to instruct students, they PAY people  to hunt down and watch students PERSONAL accounts for negative commentary.  Don’t get me wrong, I realize that  Human Resource  departments in 75%  of companies or more, are doing the same thing with employees.  They also hire and fire  based on the type of person you are deemed to be based on what is seen on your Facebook etc.  Good time to reconsider those drunken debauchery photos you posted last week from that blow out party.

No  one is denying freedom to express oneself, but keep in mind there can be a price for that.  Much can be  learned about people by what they post  in their social media outlets.  In an economy where jobs are scarce it might be wise to really look at the image you give of yourself.

Now, I do not like what happened to my niece, but I can see the other side of this issue as well.

How many times have we been up in arms over a sports figure that goes bad and gets arrested,  Tiger Woods cheated on his wife with who know  how many women, Lindsay Lohan and Paris  Hilton get DUI’s, and we’re all upset because by golly they are role models! What kind of image does this portray to our children of what is acceptable?  Never mind that they maybe didn’t sign up to be a role model, they are in the public eye, and therefore examples and should behave, right?  They should have thought about privacy before they moved into the lime light, with it goes a certain expected amount of responsibility.

SO, is being a representative of your high school to incoming students really any different?  Chosen  to participate, and accepting that role, one accepts a leadership position and with it becomes a role model of sorts.  Are you then not  held to a higher standard of expectation?  Is it  okay to speak negatively or behave in a way that is unbecoming if  you are representing your school? Or your program at school?  As the representative you are observed not only by current students and faculty, but future students as well.  Your words and actions on a public forum represent a product, the school.  Even if it is personal, if you make something public, it reflects you, and as a representative of your school, it reflects on them.

Major corporations remove celebrities or  others (some become celebrities by being the spokesperson, remember the Dell  guy that we all loved, Dude, you’re getting a Dell, that later was busted for pot and dropped?  The companies and products being endorsed want a clean cut, positive image.  We as consumers are not at all upset and in fact most of the time  totally back the dropping of a celebrity endorsement if they fail to live up to expectations of the role model.

I completely understand my niece being upset with those  in charge for removing her from the role.  I also completely understand the school  doing what they felt best to keep a particular image.  And as far as those hired to do just this, monitor the students on public forums, are we really upset about the money spent or the fact that someone was caught and singled out because they ARE in a role model position?  And if it were another student, would we in the Diva Den be this worked up or would we be saying “good, that person shouldn’t be representing the school if they cannot do it in a positive manner”.

I am torn, to say the least and trying to see all sides.  What is YOUR opinion/thought?


  1. I agree with everything that has been said…but you know what? I think it was really in poor taste to ask a student to dress in an example of inappropriate dress to begin with…I mean HELLO! I think an explanation or slides /drawings would be good enough…but to actually provide a student in inappropriate clothing, is, well…inappropriate, don’t you think?

  2. I agree with both of the previous comments. I’m not sure why the school (and I went to that school either the second or third year that it was opened) and loved it. But I don’t see why they didn’t ask her to do the “appropriate” dress as an example. I also agree that the niece shouldn’t have used the teacher’s name and the word slut in the same tweet. That is probably what really upset the school. Or the teacher. Although I don’t see anything wrong with the word “slut”, it still might not have been the greatest choice.

    The problem that I also see is this “monitoring” of the students and faculty. Yes, maybe it has saved some lives, and reputations and all that. But it’s only going to force people to adopt “alter-egos” in order to have a social media account where people can be free to be themselves. Then, what good will the monitoring do? Before long, all the monitoring in the world won’t be enough. You know what they say, “build a better mousetrap, and they will just build a better mouse”. Same goes with all this monitoring.

    It’s only natural to react when this kind of thing happens so close to home. But it sounds like everyone in the den is not only comforting and defending the niece (as a good family does) you all are also showing her what she may have done wrong. Bravo for that. That beats the hell out of the parents that just call and raise hell, never looking at both sides of the issue.

  3. Does the school have a policy on use of social media that they provided your niece before monitoring her account and censoring he posts? That’s what I want to know. If they don’t have a policy, or they haven’t made it known to students, then I don’t think asking her to remove anything is fair. If they do, and they did, well – then, she stepped in it.

    As for paying people to monitor such things – I think a lot of schools are doing this now due to the new capabilities that go with technology – cyber bullying, sexting, collaborating in negative ways. While I’m not sure it’s the school’s responsibility to do the parent’s job on these topics, the schools do have to protect themselves in our litigious culture. Not to mention, such monitoring can be done rapidly using alerts & macros.

  4. Wow…what a post! As an educator my first response is “what kind of role model are those educators? “. If the first impression of a school is important then the students helping out should model what’s appropriate be it language, clothing, whatever! So asking a student to show what is inappropriate on the first go was a very unwise choice!!! What description do you think she was given about the clothing to even make her think “slut”. I would hope time would be spent on real education issues instead of what’s on a student’s FB page. What would they have done if she’d simply made a phone call to her friends?????

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