Jack Christie, a Canadian high-school student, makes Youtube cartoons that could be characterized as slightly offensive. After all, they include cursing and some crude jokes about cocaine and pedophilia. But since there are lots of cartoons like these on the internet, they didn’t seem particularly noteworthy — until Christie’s school administrators discovered them. At this point, they were deemed so troubling that Christie was sent home and suspended. He was given a choice: take the videos down or face a police investigation. Christie refused, and is saying that schoo officials are violating his freedom of speech.
“They’ve unfairly judged me and judged my character based on something I made for entertainment,” he said. “I have the right to post videos on the Internet on my own time.”
Christie made the videos as part of his politics and economics courses. According to the Globe and Mail, they “feature an animated representation of himself leading a pair of kids on adventures and purporting to explain various subjects, such as politics and corporate whistle-blowing.” His teacher said that he had no problem with the content — and indeed, nobody seemed to find the videos offensive until Christie put them on Youtube.
Other students are angered by Christie’s removal from school. And a civil-liberties advocate quoted in the Globe and Mail piece said that it’s unclear how extensively schools can regulate students’ off-campus activities. “You might tell a student that it is offensive, but I don’t think I would go so far as to suspend or to demand students apologize or take it down,” he said.
Christie, meanwhile, is continuing to speak out, despite the fact that the school might not allow him to go to his prom. In a video posted on Youtube recently, he asserts his rights to the school board (the video is accessible here, but I’m not embedding it here because it has some strong language). In it, Christie as a cartoon avatar explains somewhat gleefully that all the attention is just making him more popular, and says,
“I have the right to say and advertise whatever … I want, and I hope that today’s bunch of 17- and 18-year-olds are smart enough to understand that it’s all comedy and nothing more.”
It certainly seems like school officials overreated on this one – and as Anna North points out on Jezebel, “If their biggest worry is having YouTube commenters find out that their teenage students are irreverent and enjoy cursing, they might want to adjust their priorities.” Seems sensible to me!
Photo from Editor B's Flickr photostream.