Should Middletown HS South’s Class President Accused of Bullying Receive an Apology? [POLL]
The headline might be a bit misleading.
This isn’t what we’d think of as the classic definition of bullying.
In the first place, I don’t even think we’ve defined just what “bullying” is in this, the age of the anti- bullying mandate?
At best, it seems to be a very nebulous term.
So, imagine this for a second.
You get up in front of your high school class and give a graduation speech that perhaps pokes fun at administrators and some students.
Do you think it should be considered “bullying” and therefore someone should be held accountable for it?
Well, that’s what happened to 2 graduating seniors at Middletown South HS.
The 18 year-old senior class presidents, Eric Dominach and Mike Sebastiano, gave a speech at their graduation containing jokes directed at specific students and their school district.
The Middletown Superintendent, William George, said, “There were students and staff mentioned and portrayed in a less than positive light, or a negative light. That warranted an investigation to make sure nobody was victimized.”
Sebastiano asserted, ““Our speech didn’t justify that outcome. We knew our speech didn’t offend anyone, we thought it was unfair.”
The district asked the students to remove several jokes from the speech before it was given, but the students left them in, as well as other jokes that hadn’t drawn the attention of administration.
District officials say they were looking out for the interests of people who had been mentioned in the speech; but the teens believe officials were just miffed the district had been the target of some of the ribbing.
Dominach and Sebastiano say Principal Patrick Rinella asked them before graduation to delete parts of the speech, including a reference to the school’s “50 other vice principals’’ — a joke about the school having multiple vice principals. The seniors also were asked to delete a gibe about the difficulty they had trying to get into the National Honor Society, despite stellar grades.
It’s all too funny, but also all too sad that the principal has absolutely no sense of humor; nor any common sense.
The New Jersey law that the students were allegedly breaking has drawn fire from many free-speech advocates.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in education, or FIRE, released an article that said, “the law also violates college students’ First Amendment rights. The law ignores the fact that harassment in the educational context has a precise legal definition, crafted by the Supreme Court with specific attention to balancing the right to freedom of expression with the government’s interest in prohibiting real harassment.”
The district withheld the boys’ diplomas until June 20. Soon thereafter, a Board of Education meeting was scheduled to occur. Students and parents alike intended to protest at the meeting.
Patti Dominach stated, “We’ve asked for an apology.
They held the power. They held the diplomas. They embarrassed the boys and didn’t let them pick up their diplomas with their peers, and embarrassed them again by calling their peers (about whether they felt bullied).”
OK, so a graduation ceremony isn’t exactly a “Friars’ Roast!”
But still, to withhold the students’ diplomas, and then conduct an investigation as to whether or not anyone was offended by the students’ remarks is definitely going overboard!
An apology from the administration probably saves a lot of headache to come, especially since I’m thinking these parents might be looking for more.