Oregon Public Broadcasting

The Salem students who were suspended after passing on a tweet about a teacher are back in school, and now the incident has sparked debate about teens and free speech on social media.

As OPB reported earlier today, about 20 McKay High School students were suspended for two days after they retweeted a claim that a female teacher "flirted" with her students. The tweet originated from an anonymous Twitter handle called @SalemConfessions.

The Statesman Journal reported in Thursday's edition that "questions have come flooding in about the implications of the school's punishment on students' rights of free speech" following Wednesday's story.

The National School Board Association has some guidelines in place for schools to determine where to draw the line: On one hand, students are responsible to uphold rules set by schools and districts, but on the other, they should be granted their First Amendment Rights on and off campus. And most cases haven't caught up with the times of social networking.

Statesman reporter Laura Fosmire says that these questions have been coming from readers through a variety of channels, including website comments and on social media.

However, as of Thursday morning, the Salem-Keizer School District hadn't received any complaints about the decision by McKay administrators to suspend the students. And, district spokesperson Jay Remy adds, this isn't necessarily a freedom of speech issue.

"In a school, it's not quite the same," Remy says. "(Students and faculty) can't do whatever they want."

Though the tweet was posted after hours, McKay High School considers it a form of cyberbullying because it mentioned the teacher by name. Remy refers to the Salem-Keizer School District handbook's Students' Rights and Responsibility:

"Acts of hazing, harassment, sexual harassment, intimidation, bullying, cyber bullying and menacing will not be tolerated by student to student, staff to student, or student to staff ... Students whose behavior is found to be in violation of this policy will be subject to disciplinary actions."

Remy said Wednesday that until there is a formal complaint filed with the district, the situation will be handled by the school.

Where do you draw the line on student freedom of speech? Was suspension an appropriate punishment? Post your thoughts on the subject in the comment section below.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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