Is online trash talk somehow different from what’s always happened?
Continuing thoughts on Rogers High incident
Since the dawn of public education, students have talked about other students and teachers behind their backs (“Hoping for calm and answers in Rogers,” editorial, Feb. 20). Today, such discussion takes place on Twitter, Facebook and anonymous websites.
Would Rogers High School senior Reid Sagehorn have been given a lengthy suspension had he made his cynical comment about a female teacher during a basketball practice or at a local hangout? As is typical these days, social media and the Internet are taken way too seriously, as if comments made on social media somehow have more power than those made elsewhere.
Upon learning of the gossip-laden website frequented by teenagers, school officials should have confirmed that the rumor was false (as was pretty much all of the site’s content), accepted Sagehorn’s truthful explanation, then allowed everyone to move on with a word of caution. At most, a short suspension would have sufficed. Instead, officials imposed what amounts to the expulsion of a popular, highly involved, model student without considering how it would be accepted by students and the community.
The teacher wasn’t defamed or ridiculed because of a silly Internet rumor seen by local teenagers, who understand that gossip is not to be taken seriously. Her suffering came only after the story was widely exposed by the media, making what should have remained a simple, private matter within the school suddenly public on a national scale.
KARL KLASSNER, Apple Valley
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The cloak of anonymity in the idea of freedom of speech is to protect individuals who criticize powerful institutions, not a means of hiding to bully other people without taking responsibility. The dimwitted online posting by the slanderers is a vicious abuse of a fundamental right in our society, and deserves to be adjudicated in court. As for the guileless football captain’s sarcastic reply, the rule of speech on the Internet is that any comment, including sarcasm or irony, that depends on seeing the facial expression or the gestures of the person posting in order to be understood, will be taken literally and misunderstood.
VIVIAN RAMALINGAM, Roseville
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If a student is popular, an athlete, captain of two sports and from a “good” family, he does not need to be held accountable for his actions? (“School district reconsiders suspension of Rogers senior,” Feb. 20.) If the district caves to the pressure of others and changes the suspension, I will again believe that it is who you are (white, good family) that determines your consequence.
JERILYNN CROWDER, Burnsville
ST. PAUL SCHOOLS
Editorial on contract talks burdened one side
If you want to know what infuriates public schoolteachers, consider the headline on the Feb. 17 editorial (“St. Paul teachers are asking for too much”). It speaks to only one-half of the definition of negotiations.
Consider an alternate (and equally misguided) headline: “St. Paul school board is offering too little.” That would make district officials boil.
To be clear, in the ebb and flow of collective bargaining, management typically offers ridiculous little bits at the start (they control the money for taxpayers), and teachers ask for a heck of a lot (they don’t control the money). The best negotiations lead constructively, with offer and counteroffer, to eventual compromise.
The static bias of the editors, even in a single headline, is destructive. It can further galvanize opposing sides, slowing or stalling negotiations.
As a past teacher and negotiator, I hope that negotiations continue without distortion. The process is already complicated, but here is some necessary clarity: In St. Paul, teachers are responding to public demand for better education results. They are negotiating for lower class sizes, knowing they are more effective teachers when placed with fewer students.
Steve Watson, Minneapolis
Empathize with those who may benefit
I understand the defenders of the law — that is, the police and sheriffs — being against the legalization of marijuana for medical use, but if what happened in my family happened in just one of theirs, it might change their minds.
My daughter, Melanie, grew up being a very healthy girl. At 12, she discovered the viola and practiced and played music for hours upon hours. She went to music school in Indiana and came home, and with friends she started the Groveland String Quartet. She was hired as a sub with the Minnesota Orchestra.
At 27, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She had to stop performing at 32. Today, and for the past many years, those hands that made such beautiful music cannot even be used to feed herself. I don’t know if her doctor would prescribe medical marijuana for her, but if it would help her, it should be available.
Alan Stone, Minnetonka
Property values, public good: Which trumps?
Why do people think they have some sort of God-given right to increasing property values? The possibility of lowered property values has become the go-to excuse for opposing anything for the public good in one’s neighborhood, be it low-income housing, public transport, treatment centers, group homes, senior housing, and on and on. Where in the Constitution, the Bible or anywhere else, for that matter, does it say: “Thou shalt make a profit on thy shelter”?
LYNN BARRON, St. Paul
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.