In recent years more than ever, the right to free speech has been significantly diminished by the federal government.
Now protests can only take place with permits, in “free speech zones”, ironically enough, and there are now also laws limiting what you can and cannot say in front of government buildings, or in front of buildings where someone working for the government might be.
Now in the ultimate microcosm of the American prison-police state, the public school, the right for students to express themselves freely is now under attack.
A new law proposed in North Carolina is actually threatening to cross this line, and dictate what students can and cannot say on the internet.
“A new state law, the 2012 School Violence Prevention Act, that will be the first in the nation to impose criminal sanctions on public school students who use computers with the “intent to intimidate or torment” school employees will go into effect Dec. 1.
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina opposes the law because it is too broad, threatens to chill students’ free speech, sets a bad precedent by telling students it’s wrong to criticize government officials, and could saddle students as young as 16 with up to 60 days in jail or a $1,000 fine for a wide range of acts that do not merit a criminal punishment.
The law would even criminalize true statements by prohibiting online statements “whether true or false, (emphasis added) intending to immediately provoke, and that is likely to provoke, any third party to stalk or harass a school employee.”
ACLU-NC Policy Director Sarah Preston said that:
“This law is so vague that it could easily result in a student being arrested simply for posting something on the Internet that a school official finds offensive.
Young people should not be taught that they will be punished for telling the truth, speaking freely, or questioning authority – yet that is exactly what could happen under this law.
If it is okay to criminalize students who criticize teachers online, what is to stop the government from making it illegal for any one of us to criticize some other government official, whether the comments are made online or not? We urge any student charged under this misguided law to contact our office immediately.”
Now more than ever it seems that schools have become testing grounds for government policies in society, and many times young people become the first targets for rights violations because they are usually prevented from standing up for themselves.
If this law passes in North Carolina, in this specific situation, then it will undoubtedly expand to other areas of the country and be applied to different social and cultural groups in a seemingly unconnected progression.
J.G. Vibes is the author of an 87 chapter counter culture textbook called Alchemy of the Modern Renaissance, a staff writer and reporter for The Intel Hub and host of a show called Voluntary Hippie Radio.
You can keep up with his work, which includes free podcasts, free e-books & free audiobooks at his website www.aotmr.com