I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Does Free Speech Even Exist Anymore?

This story out of Texas caught my attention today, and got me thinking about free speech.  It seems that there is no free speech in America anymore, particularly on sensitive topics.  Even in online chats and arguments on twitter-the "boxing ring" of the internet.  Nope, everything said, no matter the context, will be used against you.  Creepy in an Orwellian way....

 Vinita Hegwood, a High School English Teacher from Duncanville, was suspended with pay and will be terminated from her position as a teacher because of some off-color comments she made on Twitter.

From The Root:

"A Duncanville, TX English teacher has been suspended over a tweet that has been described as racially charged. Friday evening, Vinita Hegwood posted the following tweet to her account:
'Who the [expletive] made you dumb duck ass crackers think I give a squat [expletive] about your opinions about my opinions RE: Ferguson? Kill yourselves.'
The district took swift action and exercised the fullest disciplinary action allowed under district policy. Ms. Hegwood was placed on suspension without pay pending discharge. Under state law, a school district’s Board of Trustees “fires” staff members, and the district will pursue that action with the board soon" 

I understand that what this teacher said was insensitive, racially offensive, and certainly unacceptable.  But so far as I understand the story-she made these posts on her private Twitter account on her own off-duty time, under her twitter handle, a pseudonym.

While I in no way want to sound like I support what she said, I support everyone's right to free speech.  I strongly support that! I also feel that an immediate termination over someone expressing their right to free speech-- with an obviously heavy dose of sarcasm and hyperbole in her tweet--- will have an icy, polar effect on honest discourse.  Fire her?  Really?  What about counseling, a suspension, and sensitivity training?

I don't agree with what she said, I dislike it.  However, what was the context of the exchange?  What was the pretext for her aggressive, hate-filled tweet.  We don't know.  So It is one and done?

The only thing I can think from this, what seems to be an overly robust punishment for an off-duty, non-illegal act, is that this district wanted this teacher out or that she already had numerous disciplinary issues.

Barring that, I simply do not see how this action will stand in the courts.  If it is upheld, will this be living proof that free speech no longer exists in America?


Gulagathon said...

I think her comments were a bit racially charged, and maybe she could have found a better way of expressing her opinion. But it would be nice if she were able to keep her job and her livelihood. I do believe that there is a difference in pretexts in the heart of people when racial comments are made. Some people make comments that are filled with hate, and some are made in the heat of the moment. The comments in the heat of the moment may not have hate.

Sounds like she was ticked off about the Ferguson situation which is understandable.The school board could have been more compassionate towards the lady and truly come to and understanding of what happened. Personally I don't like racial slurs. You can describe a race without going there. I also think that in order for us all to survive as a whole we all need a better understanding of racial issues.

Sweeping racial issues under the rug is not helping us. The solution is heart felt understanding of why do these issues occur, and why did they occur.

As far as the constitution, Benjamin Franklin was asked immediately after the constitutional convention by a lady standing outside "what did you and the others make at the meeting" and Ben replied "a constitution and freedom, if you can keep it". George Orwell's dreams are being fulfilled.

They use situations like this teacher losing her job to set precedence for infringing on more and more peoples 1st amendment right, until it is no more.

Gulagathon said...

Also I want to add that, as a teacher she shouldn't be talking like that because it's just not a good look. If this was the other way around it would look really bad. I do think that people need their 1st amendment right, but there are consequences to racially charged statements especially when you are a teacher. She should have found a way to express herself without the racial slur.

People should be able to make racial statements because we need to talk about the struggles in life that we all go through; it's all about the respectfulness of the statement. But also we can't walk on egg shells all of the time. Sometimes the various races do become too sensitive over some things. Things can be better if we really want it to be. Hey, it's something man. At the end of the day I'm for freedom not the totalitarianism that's spreading.