INDIANA — Schooladministrators expelled a 17-year-old high school senior March 12 for tweets heposted from home at 3 a.m.
Months before graduation, Garrett High School senior AustinCarroll was expelled for tweets he said he posted at home from his personalcomputer. But officials from the Garrett-Keyser-Butler Community SchoolDistrict claim Carroll made the posts from a school-issued laptop, according toCarroll’s mother, Pam Smith.
Carroll said he posted the tweets in the early hours of March6 on his personal computer at home. Carroll said Superintendent DennisStockdale told him that even if the posts were from his personal computer, whenCarroll later logged into Twitter with the school-issued laptop, the posts couldshow up with a school IP address.
School computers, including laptops, function on theschool’s network and use Internet filters, Stockdale said. He said it was beyondhis expertise to discuss the issue in detail, but the district only disciplinesfor posts made on the district’s network with district technology.
“The school district has not suspended or expelled studentsfor using their personal electronic devices inappropriately using their ownnetwork, including in this situation,” Stockdale read from a statement preparedby the district’s lawyers.
Stockdale declined to comment on the issue any further, citingstudent privacy concerns.
Carroll said one of tweets the district found objectionable included,“Fuck is one those fucking words you can fucking put anywhere in a fucking sentenceand it still fucking makes sense.” Carroll said another tweet read, “A musicteacher asked students what was their favorite instrument and the fat kid saidthe lunch bell.”
Smith said she was called to a March 12 meeting regarding herson’s attendance at school, but the focus of the meeting ended up being thetweets.
“They told him to go get his computer out of his locker,”Smith said. “The assistant principal said, ‘I kind of blind-sided you and thismeeting is about his Twitter posts and he’s expelled.’”
After meeting with the superintendent a week later, Carrollwas told he could attend an alternative school but would not be allowed toparticipate in extracurricular activities or attend prom.
“When we met with the superintendent, they told us we couldwaive our rights for an expulsion hearing,” Smith said. “I had no idea what anexpulsion hearing was. He said Austin would be able to walk with his class andhe would get a blank diploma card so I thought, ‘OK, I’ll sign these papers.’”
Smith, now knowing what she signed, regrets her decision.
In October, Carroll served a one-day in-school suspensionfor Tweeting profanity while on the school’s laptop. After that day, Carrollsaid he used the laptop only for homework.
“Austin told me, ‘I swear on my life I didn’t use the schoolcomputer,’” Smith said. “I believe him.”
Carroll and his mother have doubts about his expulsion, andsaid Carroll’s been arguing with administrators since he wore a kilt to schoolin January. Smith said Carroll wore shorts underneath the kilt but schoolofficials claimed it violated dress code.
“I’m Irish and I started wearing my kilt because girls areallowed to wear skirts in the winter but guys aren’t allowed to wear shorts,”Carroll said.
School officials later agreed to let Carroll wear his kilton Irish and Scottish holidays, he said.
Carroll was called to the principal’s office again forviolating the dress code March 1. Carroll explained that it was an Irishholiday and went back to class.
Carroll said he is considering filing a lawsuit against thedistrict but is waiting until spring break ends this week.
“I feel like the school’s harassing me because of the wholekilt thing,” Carroll said.