According to a report by Pew Research, Millennials are “confident, connected and open to change.” They were “born after 1980” and are the “first generation to come of age in the new millennium.”
This past February, a high school senior may have taken it upon himself to show us just what this new generation is about. A Boston Magazine article explained how a tweet by Nick Barbieri, a student at North Attleboro High School in Massachusetts almost resulted in his being suspended.
After a snow storm, the school’s official Twitter account tweeted, “No school tomorrow – see you in June!” Barbieri’s Twitter response to the prospect of having to make-up school days in June included the F-bomb with “#seniors #nomakeup.”
He was home when he sent out the tweet. It was late at night and he was using his personal Twitter account. Soon after his tweet, school officials called his home and asked him to delete it. Barbieri complied. When he went back to school, he was told that he might be suspended and could face detention as well. Further, he was pulled out of his classes numerous times over the incident and asked to delete additional tweets.
Concerned that his First Amendment rights were being violated, Barbieri tweeted to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to take up his cause. They did. At the time of the Boston Magazine article, he had more than 30,000 followers. Now, he has over 100,000 followers.
“While school officials have a right to control the conduct of students in class and at other school activities, they cannot possibly punish teenagers for their personal conversations and comments about the school, especially outside of school. It is quite simply mindboggling to contemplate schools imposing discipline for every use of a swear word in relation to the school that a young person posts on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. Simply because social media may make these comments more widely available does not change the basic rules protecting the freedom of speech of students outside of school.”
The school decided not to discipline Barbieri and he succeeded in giving a proper civics lesson to us all.