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High school expels student for tweeting f-word

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(Credit: Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

An Indiana high school expels a student for a silly, profane tweet, even though it seems to have been sent at 2:30 a.m. The school suggests that it may track all of its students' tweets, regardless of what time or where they were sent.

By Chris Matyszczyk, CNET

I am sure that the people who run Garrett High School in Indiana radiate intelligence.

Perhaps, though, they have tossed a little inkblot onto their pristine record with the expulsion of senior Austin Carroll. He didn't assault anyone. He didn't toss a projectile, nor brandish a knife. No, it seems that he merely tweeted.

Please prepare your best judgmental pose while I transcribe (mostly) his supposedly most offensive tweet: "F*** is one of those F****** words you can F****** put anywhere in a F****** sentence and it still F****** makes sense."

There, how did that feel? Juvenile? To some, perhaps. Amusing? Mostly to his peers, surely. But offensive? Offensive enough to get him thrown out of school, with a mere three months of his time there left to serve? With this, some might struggle.

You might wonder whether he sent this tweet during school hours. Perhaps he had been moved by a reading of Hunter S. Thompson. Well, in an interview with Indiana News Center he said that he had tweeted from home.

"If my account is on my own personal account, I don't think the school or anybody should be looking at it. Because it's my own personal stuff and it's none of their business," he said, with some sagacity.

How is it, then, that the school heard about this tweet at all? Did one of his followers declare him to be unsuitable for further education?

Well, now. The principal of Garrett High School told INC that regardless of whether it was sent from home--or, indeed, whether a school computer was used--the school may track students' tweets. When Carroll logged in at school, his tweets might have been picked up by the school's watchdog system.

Fort Wayne's Journal Gazette does report that Carroll is something of an eccentric. He fought to be allowed to wear a kilt on Irish holidays. He had also been warned before about sending ribald tweets using school-issued computers.

This time, though, there seems ample evidence that he tweeted at 2:30 a.m. Still, the school reportedly maintained that the tweets were adorned with its IP address.

It would be natural to suspect that the school had tired a little of Carroll. However, even if the school could prove that he tweeted a few naughty words on its own computers, was the only option expulsion?

Could the school have not asked him to recite some literature at morning assembly? The works of the 15th century author William Dunbar would have been appropriate, for he is alleged to have been the first to place the f-word upon parchment.

Might the school not have asked him to recite the famous poem of Phillip Larkin titled "This Be The Verse." It begins with the lines: "They f*** you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do."

Might he not have been asked to declaim an essay by Adam Mansbach--author of "Go the F*** to Sleep"--in New York magazine that offered of the f-word: "Its grammatical versatility cannot be topped: You can use it as noun, verb, adverb, adjective, or interjection, not to mention in any mood whatsoever, from exultation to rage."

Which is pretty much what Carroll was saying in his tweet.

The school appears no longer to be speaking publicly, on the advice of its attorney. Meanwhile, some of the students threatened a protest on Friday, so much so that police were called.

It may well be that Carroll's tweet didn't represent the highest type of wit. Some might conclude, though, that the principal of Garrett High School is a very particular type of wit indeed.

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