More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Eleven suspended for cyber-bullying: Students target high school principal
Feb 12, 2007
Isabel Teotonio, Toronto Star

It started out as a cyberspace water cooler for students of a Catholic high school in Caledon East to vent about their principal, Edward McMahon.

But as more and more students logged on to the popular online social networking site, and joined the group "McMahon ... Grinch of School Spirit," the venting became vulgar.

Postings included sexually explicit, derogatory and demeaning remarks about the principal and as a result of the "cyber-bullying," at least 11 male and female students at Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School were last week suspended for up to eight days, said board spokesperson Bruce Campbell.

"(McMahon) is very disappointed in the kids because they were amongst the school's leaders," said Campbell of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, adding that one was on student council and another a top school athlete. "They blamed the principal for banning personal electronic devices and uniform policies, but those are board-wide policies.

"It's really behaviour that's injurious to the moral tone of the school and it undermined authority," said Campbell, adding that, according to the board's "Catholic Code of Conduct," cyber-bullying a student or staff member can garner a suspension of up to 20 days.

But some students, who spoke to the Star on the condition of anonymity, said the number of those suspended was as high as 19 and that some were sent home for simply calling the principal an idiot.

McMahon could not be reached for comment last night.

"Some did go over the top, but some of us didn't say a whole lot and we're out," said one student.

"I wasn't saying he was an idiot, I said he acted like an idiot and that's my right, and the fact that they suspended me for saying he acted a certain way is a little over the edge.

"It's frustrating, because other students have written about (McMahon) on, but nothing has happened to them, because on that website it's anonymous."

Another student said she was suspended after responding to a posting made by a male student who mentioned inciting a riot to fight the ban on personal electronic devices.

The student said she was opposed to the riot but supported lifting the ban.

She then added "I guess the wording I used was wrong.

" I want a scholarship for university ? why then would I want to be suspended?"

One student said that the creators and administrators of the group, which had nearly 300 members, were all suspended, regardless of whether they wrote anything about the principal.

The idea behind starting up the group, which has since been taken down, was a good one, said another student who posted messages but was not suspended.

"Some of his policies are ridiculous and for them to go unchallenged is unhealthy," said the student, adding "a lot of people are arguing that we have a right to express our opinion."

"This was an overreaction ? some of the stuff wasn't that bad.

"He could've laughed it off and said, `Kids will be kids.'

"We do have the right to express our opinion ? to a certain extent, of course."

Board spokesperson Campbell said he was unaware of anyone being suspended for simply calling the principal an idiot.

He added that it's one thing to complain about your teacher or principal, but "you're taking it to a whole new level when you're putting it out there on the Internet."

Some parents were initially concerned the action was a little heavy, said Campbell, adding after they reviewed the posted material they withdrew their complaints.


Personally, I'm glad to see this kind of thing being taken seriously. While those of us living in the free world have a right to freedom of speech, we have to consider the rights of others, as well. Too many times, we put our right to say whatever we please ahead of the rights of others to be treated with the respect and dignity due any human being, regardless of whether we agree with that human being, or not. Bullying is taking free speech several steps too far, in my opinion.
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