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#BackTheTeacher.

There is no such actual hashtag – not yet, anyway. But it would be a cause worth rallying around.

Sign me up for the defense of the unnamed West Seneca East High School teacher who cracked down on a rowdy student. Count me in with school officials who backed her, after the angry kid f-bombed her on Twitter. Print me a Back the Teacher t-shirt, after the student's parents complained to WIVB-TV that his weeklong suspension was too much for too little.

Sometimes you have to draw a line in the cyber-sand. Just because it's social media doesn't mean it doesn't matter.

The senior was kicked out of a school hockey game for getting rowdy. He blasted the teacher who booted him with a “(expletive)Mrs. (Name Withheld)” tweet. After other kids told the teacher, the Obscene Tweeter was suspended. His parents acknowledged that he messed up but said officials came down too hard. The student has become an anti-hero, with kids rallying to his cause on Twitter and wearing T-shirts in his defense.

I am not sitting for a fitting.

There is a basic tenet of school discipline: You can't f-bomb the teacher.

Granted, this did not happen on school grounds, and no threat was made. But he is a student, she is a teacher and social media is public space – however much teenagers may think that Twitter, Facebook and the rest are no-adults-allowed Private Idahos.

The student said his free-speech rights are being smothered. But school officials told kids at the start of the year that they were accountable for what they posted on social media. They clearly extended their authority beyond the school walls.

No, it is not like he blasted the teacher over the school's P.A. system. But given the ubiquity of social media, and the dense high school grapevine, f-bombing a teacher on Twitter is like a public announcement. Indeed, it likely got more buzz inside the school than if he had confronted her in a hallway.

Let this slide with a day's detention or similar wrist-slap, and it sends a message to every kid (and teacher) at the school: Discipline doesn't matter. Authority has no teeth. Administrators won't back one of their own.

Send that message, and school officials might as well hand over the keys.

I think there is another lesson here, especially for teenagers: Social media is a public bulletin board. Absent lockdown privacy settings, what you post is – one way or another – potentially available to teachers, principals, prospective employers, parents, neighbors, college admission officials, a universe of Twitter “followers,” hundreds of Facebook “friends” you barely know (and all of their “friends”), creeps, scam artists and predators. Posting on social media is not like chatting with your buds in the cafeteria. The stuff is out there.

Indeed, I followed the West Seneca East Twitter trail and found out more about some teenage tweeters than I wanted to know. Although there was some sunlit caring and sharing, much of it was cyber-quicksand where f-bombs drop like rain, kids go after each other and sexual references get casually dropped.

No, it did not make me nostalgic for high school.

Neither does a kid f-bombing a teacher. A week's suspension may be tough to swallow, but – given the bigger issues – I think it's the right medicine.



email: desmonde@buffnews.com