By Gilbert Falso :: 10:56 AM
When high school senior Patrick Brown started a hashtag on Twitter earlier this week to discuss issues surrounding his school district’s budget, the last thing he expected was to suffer disciplinary action for his efforts.
Brown attends Cicero-North Syracuse High School in New York state’s North Syracuse Central School District. On Wednesday, he coined the hashtag #shitCNSshouldcut after the district’s budget failed to pass muster with voters. In New York State, individual school budgets are put to a vote every year in May. If a district’s budget is not adopted by voters, the superintendent and board of education must make changes and resubmit the budget for another vote.
He started the hashtag to encourage discussion among district residents and students about where the district should cut funding in order to create a new budget that would be approved by voters. The next day, he was removed from class, and suspended for using his cell phone in class. Brown claims the suspension is directly related to his creation of the hashtag on Twitter.
North Syracuse Central School District’s superintendent, Kim Dyce Faucette alleges that Brown was causing a “social media riot that disrupted the learning environment,” according to Syracuse newspaper the Post-Standard.
“We have a student code of conduct and there are clear expectations for all students in our district,” Faucette told the paper. “It’s our expectations that our students will abide by our policy and procedures, and if they don’t there are clear consequences.”
Students had been voicing their concerns on Twitter about which athletic and extra-curricular programs might be cut, and though Brown admits starting the hashtag as a bit of a joke, it eventually evolved into an online discussion that involved students, teachers, and community members.
Initially, school officials claimed that Brown had been harassing teachers via Twitter. After Brown was able to prove that his Tweets were not harassing in nature, the charges against him were changed to the use of cell phones during class time.
“It makes me uncomfortable that I can get in trouble for expressing my opinion,”Brown told the Post-Standard.
Other students at Cicero-North Syracuse High School have now taken to Twitter with the hashtag #FreePatBrown to show their support for Brown, and their displeasure with the administration for their decision to suspend him.
Officials at the school district did not respond to request for comments, citing that they do not comment on the disciplinary actions taken against their students for privacy reasons.