ACLU steps in to defend N. Attleboro student's tweet - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

ACLU steps in to defend N. Attleboro student's tweet

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By: Samantha Lavien

Twitter: @samanthalavien

The ALCU stepped in to help a North Attleboro High School senior after a profanity-laced tweet  got him in trouble at school.

It all began when Nick Barbieri responded to a tweet made by the schools twitter page last week reading, "No School Tomorrow– See you in June,"

"I quoted that tweet and wrote...**** off and then #seniors #nomakeup," said Barbieri.

Barbieri who makes gaming YouTube videos for work says he try's to make statements online to gain attention from his more than 30,000 followers.

"Anything that will draw reaction is what I'll do and sometimes a well placed profanity can do that," said Barbieri.

What Barbieri did not expect was for school officials to contact him to remove it.

"I wasn't trying to insult anybody and I did take the tweet down," said Barbieri.

When Barbieri returned to school after the snow day he was told he could receive a multiple day suspension if he did not remove three other tweets. He did delete them and was given two days of detention..

The ACLU stepped in to defend Barbieri writing a letter in his defense.

That letter written by Lawyer Sarah Wunsch read in part, "I am asking that you rescind the discipline, remove it from Nick's record and ensure that school employees understand the important free speech principles that you are charged with teaching students about by word and deed."

The school has since rescinded the punishment and has said the incident will not go on Barbieri's record. The Superintendent of Schools, Suzan Cullen issued ABC 6 News this statement:

Recently there has been much public interest in a matter involving a student at North Attleborough High School and his having been told he was being disciplined for a tweet he sent out last week. Whereas it is the District's policy not to discuss student matters it will not do so now. That said, the District does want to publicly state that this student will not be disciplined for the tweet he sent out nor will there be any information regarding this matter put into his student record file. The District has a longstanding practice of working collaboratively on all issues involving student education and it has done so in this instance as well. North Attleborough High School Principal Scott Holcomb has spoken with representatives of the ACLU regarding the intersection between a student's First Amendment rights on social media and a public school district's interest in delivering the best educational experience it can for its students. Principal Holcomb has also expressed a willingness to get together with representatives of the ACLU to discuss these issues and to collaboratively work through them. The North Attleborough School District prides itself on being proactive on new technologies and it plans to continue to do so with social media and related forms of electronic communications as well.

Meantime Barbieri says this controversy raises a much bigger issue about how school officials can sensor social media

"It's a slippery slope when you start giving administrators the ability to give detentions or discipline students for social media conversations that in this day and age happen as often as a phone conversation or an in person conversation," said Barbieri.

Barbieri says he would like an apology from the school's vice principal for the incident.

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