Freedom of Speech, Not the Freedom To Be Heard

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November 19, 2012 by bellabettina79

As much as I enjoy a good discussion, either with like-minded folks or with those who disagree with my viewpoints, there are a handful of topics that really grind my gears. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have made a much easier process for us all to express our thoughts to the world, yet many have thus far not grasped the importance of discretion when posting thoughts that can be viewed by the general public.

I found it quite interesting that a Columbus City schoolteacher could not control his anger about Mitt Romney losing the recent election, and took to Facebook to express his disdain for those he thought were responsible for Obama’s victory. According to 10-TV News in Columbus, the unnamed teacher said “Congrats to those dependent on government, homosexuals, potheads, Jay-Z fans, non Christians, non taxpayers, illegals, communists, Muslims, planned murder clinics, enemies of America, Satan You WON!” Not surprisingly, the Facebook post has stirred up quite a bit of anger – both in disgust for the comments and in defense of the man’s right to post this on the Internet. The school at which he is employed has opened an investigation, due to the complaints received by local parents, which has many of this teacher’s supporters accusing the school of violating his First Amendment rights.

Let me begin by stating the obvious: He is a bitter, bigoted man, and has become a textbook case for anger displacement. If we allow this man the benefit of the doubt and assume all Obama voters are in fact dependent on government, homosexuals, potheads, Jay-Z fans, non Christians, non taxpayers, illegals, communists, Muslims, planned murder clinics, enemies of America, and Satan himself (I didn’t realize he was registered), then are we to accept the underlying allusion that those groups of voters are inferior due to their differing views on a qualified presidential candidate? Furthermore, is there some secret society of pot-smoking homosexuals who listen to Jay-Z as they study multiple non-Christian religions and economic systems whilst performing abortions and hating America? I’d like to know where they hold their weekly meetings, because apparently it would be my chance to meet President Obama!

Sure, this teacher has a right to express his opinions without fear of government retaliation. However, this is a far cry from what his supporters are upset about. They seem very passionate in their demands for protection of a teacher’s ability to vent on his “private” Facebook account without reprimand from the school system. “Freedom of speech! Freedom of speech! He has the right to say what he wants! How can the school investigate him? That’s not fair!!”

…Right about there is where my head explodes….

Think back, if you will, to the context of the Bill of Rights. While the Constitution was being ratified, there was a disagreement among those present at the Constitutional Convention about whether the original document was sufficient in protecting individual rights from government action. With the precedent set forth by the British Army prior to the Revolutionary War, there was a significant amount of fear that the newly created government would not protect future leaders from squandering individual liberties by quartering soldiers in private homes, arresting citizens for assembling and speaking their minds, or preventing citizens from petitioning the government with concerns. With respect to the freedom of speech, this does not by any means guarantee us speech free from judgment by our peers or our employers.

When people are in a position of shaping young, impressionable minds, it is of utmost importance that they grasp the severity of the backlash that can happen when parents disagree with what is being impressed upon their children. Under protection of the First Amendment, this teacher cannot be arrested for expressing his distaste for the electoral results. However, he should understand the consequences for offending the 95% of students at his school who receive free or reduced lunches (not to mention anyone else his Facebook post insulted). The Ohio Education Association has urged teachers not to post anything on a social network they would not say in front of students, parents, or the Board of Education. However, if this teacher feels his opinion is so important that he actually would have said these words in front of students or parents, then the Education Association should still have every right to review this teacher’s comments and act accordingly.

What some fail to understand is that freedom of speech only grants us the right to speak, not the right to be heard. A student doesn’t have to be subjected to slanderous comments from an authority figure simply because the authority has a “First Amendment right”. A student could feel unfair judgment upon themselves as an individual, knowing their teacher has negative views of, say, homosexuals. It’s bad enough that teen homosexuals fear bullying from other teens who haven’t learned the basics of tolerance, but having an adult lash out on a public forum could be the catalyst for a teen to turn to drug abuse, or even to commit suicide.

We all must practice discretion in what we say, or even how we say it. The First Amendment only guarantees us the freedom from action by our government, not by our peers.

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