GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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May 2, 2012

Schools wrestle with students' racist 'tweets'

A week after a national broadside of racist epithets broke out on Twitter.com targeting one of hockey's few black players, Gloucester school officials are still grappling with what — if anything — to do about GHS student-athletes and other local teens who spewed public racist comments across the Internet.

The Gloucester School District, Superintendent Richard Safier had said, had received word that students had been part of the incident, and he vowed to conduct a full investigation and implement an educational component that looked at the "moral, social and legal aspects of the remarks."

The district's investigation, he said, would consider whether disciplinary action would be warranted, and whether the schools have jurisdiction over the incident at all. As of late Monday, there had been no apparent athletic suspensions or other actions reported. At least one of the confirmed "Tweeters," however, continued to represent Gloucester High in its baseball game Monday against Peabody.

School Committee Chairman Jonathan Pope said Tuesday the schools' jurisdiction in this case isn't entirely clear. It's something that district policy doesn't cover, he said. He added that this issue is not as clearly defined for potential action as if students and student athletes were breaking a law — as in underage drinking.

The School Committee, he said, is in the process of working on a social media policy for students, but doesn't yet have it fully formed.

"We're in the process of doing policies around social networks," he said.

Pope said he didn't know what the school district plans to do about the incident, saying it is entirely an administrative matter. Safier did not return calls seeking comment on this story Tuesday.

The school's Internet policy covers online use on school grounds with appropriate instructor supervision. The policy prohibits cyber bullying, or use of profane, vulgar, threatening, defamatory, abusive, discriminatory, harassing or otherwise objectionable or criminal language "in a public or private message." It also prohibits use of social networking sites and chatrooms on the school's network.

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