Earlier this month, an eighth-grader in small town Connecticut took to Facebook to vent his frustration with the principal, writing, "I swear to God I'm going to kill Mr. Robinson." In response, a female classmate chimed in, "Let's bomb the school together.'' The New Milford middle school students were both arrested this week and charged with disorderly conduct, second-degree breach of peace and threatening. The 13-year-olds were also suspended for ten days and face expulsion! But the boy's mother, whose name is being withheld, says the punishment is excessive, and perhaps motivated in part by her complaints about Mr. Robinson, the assistant principal.
"I'm not excusing him for what he did... I'm not proud of my child for doing this,'' the boy's mother tells the New Milford News-Times. "But if I was arrested every time I told my children I was going to kill them because they didn't do what I asked, I'd be on death row." The mom admits her son "has a big mouth, and is fresh," but she also seems to think Assistant Principal Gerald Robinson might be retaliating. The two frequently clash, and the day before the boy's arrest, his mother complained to Superintendent JeanAnn Paddyfote about Robinson.
Superintendent Paddyfote says she's considering expelling the students, because "We don't condone threats against people or property.'' Indeed, this new social networking phenomenon is a tricky thing. On the one hand, kids say the darnedest shit and it's now getting amplified by the Internet (Facebook allows 13-year-olds to use the site), and perhaps taken more seriously than necessary. On the other hand, our post-Columbine reality means that even the most ludicrous threat can no longer be brushed off as adolescent bluster. So either parents need to ban the Internet from their homes or more schools need to require classes about the repercussions of online conduct. Or, ideally, both.