Middle School "Hate List" -- no freedom of "speech"?

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MissyJ's picture
Joined: 01/31/02
Posts: 3212
Middle School "Hate List" -- no freedom of "speech"?

I came across this story in the news and thought it was worthy of debate. I realize that we are living in far different times but I recall there were girls and boys alike in middle school that would create lists -- people they liked; those they didn't. I don't know that they were titled in any way. I thought it was silly then and silly now... I'm sure depending upon who you ask I was on both. Probably still am... Wink

Within this particular news story, three girls were suspended for 10 days (and possibly may face criminal charges if some of the other parents have anything to say about it.)

Police: 3 girls suspended after making middle school 'hate list'

It appears that the rumor mill has been labeling it a "kill list", but the report from the school Superintendent seemed to indicate that was blowing things out of proportion:

Wilkinson said he received a phone call Feb. 6 after a school counselor found the list, which the girls had torn to pieces.

"The counselor finds it and tapes it back together like a jigsaw puzzle," Wilkinson said. "The girls made a list of people that they hate... people that were picking on them or that they're jealous of. That paper was so ripped up, you can barely read names."

Wilkinson said he gave the list to Washington Township police on Feb. 7.

"Once we feel it's a terroristic threat, it goes to the police," Wilkinson said. "I talked to Chief Moody Thursday and gave him the list after making a copy. He said, 'Is this all you've got?' and I said, 'Yes.'"

Wilkinson and Bellmar Principal John Grice last week interviewed each of the girls -- who he described as being "in tears" and "remorseful" -- and their parents.

Do you feel that things have escalated to the point that kids aren't allowed the freedom to express whether they like/dislike others? In working with this age group (and teens), the words "love" and "hate" are often overused tremendously. I discourage the use of the word "hate" with my own kids, but still know they use it in reference to particular entrees they despise. Blum 3

I understand that there is a delicate balance of wanting to protect our children. Certainly there would be a cry of outrage if someone did make a "hit list" and acted upon it, if police knew about it ahead of time and failed to act. I just wonder if the word "HATE" automatically now reaches the form of being considered a "terrorist threat".

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

This is a hard one. On one hand, we do live in different times and lists like this could be potentially viewed as a threat, however I know that we did similar things during sleepovers like cutest boys or something stupid like that. It's a fine line to put people into lists with your friends of who you like/don't like and potential bullying.

I think it would be a great teaching moment for them to learn why this can be viewed as a threat and at the very least how putting them on hate lists is just awful.

I think once they determined there was no threat from the girls that should have been enough. I think their punishment is kind of harsh to be honest, sitting at the principals office every morning, eating lunch in a designated area....ick.

Maybe the parents of the kids on the list, instead of running a witch hunt, should be worrying about their own children and why they were considered to be mean to these kids.

mom2robbie's picture
Joined: 01/20/07
Posts: 2541

"Jessica80" wrote:

Maybe the parents of the kids on the list, instead of running a witch hunt, should be worrying about their own children and why they were considered to be mean to these kids.

What!?! Their little angels being mean!!! Of course not! :rolleyes: And from the sound of the witch hunt that is exactly what is going on in their minds. We have heard of Robbie bullying a few times, believe me he got into a lot of trouble about it.

mom2robbie's picture
Joined: 01/20/07
Posts: 2541

duplicate

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
Posts: 1538

I understand it going to the police and the girls being talked to. But really, those parents shouldnt even know that their kids name is on the list. This seems to have been handled so badly. Those poor girls.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

My best friends husband is an elementary school principal. This happened at the ELEMENTARY level at his school. Yes, unfortunately this is going to land these kids in a lot of trouble, especially if they do such a thing on the internet (as happened in his case). If it specifically said "Hate" and not kill I would not involve the police. Kill? Yep, police.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

Did it say Kill? There didn't seem to be a confirmation on that in this article..just that was what the parents were calling it.

If it was a kill list...yes I agree with the punishment.

bunnyfufu's picture
Joined: 10/21/05
Posts: 203

I remember "the slam book" well. In my hs days it was a pretty powerful little manifesto for bullying. There's power in words and while I do not think it is a terrorist level threat, it should be taken seriously. I remember it well. I was for sure bullied. it ripped into my hairstyle, my family. I was fearful and it lingered for months.

I am not convinced that police should be involved, but counsellors, the principle and the parents for sure should address it.

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1535

I am not convinced that the cops should be called if the word was hate. If it was kill then absolutely.

I do have to say that if I found out that my kid was actively spending time writing something like that, even if it was hate, we would be having some major talks. I honestly cant imagine my 2 older DD's hating someone that much (my 3rd Dd is in kindergarten so I cant see her actually hating someone, but she may change)

bunnyfufu's picture
Joined: 10/21/05
Posts: 203

I really want to read this book by Emily Bazelon.

I am fine as an adult and I made it through by just being tough. . . but this story mimics my own bully situation so closely. It was painful.

I had always been on the edges of the in crowd. But I was a little academic and artistic in a nerdy way. I love actually learning. Also, I was very bored with driving my friends around from house to house on the weekends as they smoked weed. I had the temerity to ask if we could find something else to do. Complete social implosion.

The slam book. Plus the fact that I straightened my hair right as perms were going out of style - a little ahead of the curve, sent my social life into the ****can.

10 days suspension sounds fine to me. Just fine. And I am glad to see that this kind of crap, that I am sure the intelligent grown-up teachers and counselors knew was going on, even back then. . . is not tolerated as it once was.

It wouldn't have made my social life better in HS, that is for damn sure. But, it may have made me feel less terrified of mis-stepping socially by reinforcing that others thought that kind of behavior sucked.

Then again, I really know and like myself now and I suppose it was formative.

Mean people can suck it. So can mean kids.

fuchsiasky's picture
Joined: 11/16/07
Posts: 955

I am not convinced that the cops should be involved. It should have been dealt with at the school level. And the parents of the kids on that list should not have been involved. The suspension sounds fine.

I was bullied terribly all through school. It was hell. So was SO. We have no tolerance for it whatsoever. We have had our stepson move from across the country to live with us (he is nearly 19) so that he could get settled, get a job etc - which he did. It recently came to light that he has been being a bully to his sister. He actually tried to defend his right to bully his siblings and just generally be a jerk to them. He said he won't change. Needless to say he won't be going with us when we move in April. He will be finding his own place to live. We can't have that mentality in our house. It is poison.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I'll be the odd one out and say that, from the details provided, this punishment and calling the cops seems bananas overboard to me. I guess I don't really see how writing someone's name on a piece of paper and then ripping up the paper could be considered either "terroristic" or even bullying. The difference between that and a slam book is that slam books were passed around for everyone to see and comment on for some good old fashioned public humiliation (I'm being sarcastic about "good old fashioned.")

Having said that, if the list said "Kill" then yes, I agree with the police being called. Or if the list was made public and being used in some way to actually hurt the kids on the list, then yes, I agree with the punishment. But if it literally was as simple as "a couple of girls say together and wrote a list of people they don't like and then ripped it up without doing anything else with it or showing it around," then I can't really see how that merits much more than a talk with the school counselor and maybe a couple of days of detention. An I being totally insensitive here? I was never really bullied so I admit I may not be as sensitive to it, but I just don't really see how writing a list and then ripping it up constitutes as "bullying."

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3186

I think the fact that they ripped it up is important, and it's weird that some teacher taped the whole thing back together. They got rid of it! It's icky behavior and should be addressed by parents and teachers, not by police.

bunnyfufu's picture
Joined: 10/21/05
Posts: 203

I could very well be overly sensitive to this, too. I mean, the nature of bullying is that less people get bullied than don't. So my perspective is probably pretty knee-jerk to stop bad behavior quickly and sharply.

I am also guessing that there is more to the story than what we see from the report. School counselors are usually pretty level headed people, or should be and I am just guessing, but I bet there was some other observed behavior that prompted the digging deeper.

So kind of more to the point of the original question, do kids lose a level of "free-speech" when at school? I think that they do a little bit. I wouldn't wish to curtail actual thought but, like at work or church or any civil social interaction, people constrain some of their opinions.

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
Posts: 1538

My understanding is that it was these girls who were being bullied, and they got together and basically wrote a list of the kids who were bullying them. I can actually see being concerned about this, as it seems to me that often in school shootings it is the victims of bullys who do the shooting, and there is often a target list of bullies they want to 'get'. So in that way I can understand taking it to the police, and the police having a chat with these girls and their parents. However, when the police determined that there was no threat, that should have been the end of it, except maybe some counseling for these poor girls. This punishment further singles them out and makes them a target for their peers, who never should have known about the list at all. My question is 'How do the parents of the kids on the list even know about it?' That seems like a huge breach of privacy to me, and if I was one of these girls parents I would be livid that my child is continuing to be victimized when the 'hate' list seems like a pretty clear cry for help to me. From what I have read (and maybe I have read it wrong), I feel like these poor girls should be on a suicide watch. I can imagine how they must be feeling.

bunnyfufu's picture
Joined: 10/21/05
Posts: 203

That very well could've been how things happened. But I can't fully get on board with it being an invasion of privacy.

If your kid was on the list you'd want to know, right? I would.