UnBearable Behavior

BACKGROUND
In 2007, an Indiana Court of Appeals overturned a decision of an Indiana Juvenile Court regarding the behavior of a female, middle school student, refered to as A.B.  The Juvenile court found that posts to a MySpace page that were filled with obscenity, met the conditions of harassment as defined by Indiana Code 35-42-2-2(a)(4).  The Court of Appeals, however, determined A.B.’s post to be protected as political speech under Indiana’s Constitution, Article 1, Section 9 (A.B. vs State, 863 N.E. 2d 1212 (2007)).  The Indiana Supreme Court, however, in 2008, disagreed, to a degree.  The higher court declined to view A.B.’s speech as political but determined that the state had failed to prove that the juvenile had intended to harass the alleged victim.  A more detailed synopsis of this case can be found at the Citizen Media Law Project

As I understand it, a different female juvenile, refered to as R.B., created a fake My Space page “as” her middle school principal.  R.B. then invited several of her friends to become “friends” of the fictitious principal.  A.B. accepted the invitation knowing full well that the principal (Mr. Gobert) was not the actual author of the profile.  A.B. posted several obscene comments on the page.  To compound matters, A.B.  proceeded to create a MySpace Group called “Fuck Mr. Gobert & GC School”. 

Mr. Gobert discovered the page after he had been informed by a student of a separate web page referencing assistant principal, Mr. Taylor.  Mr. Gobert & Mr. Taylor had to go to great lengths in order to access the full contents of these sites.  

REVIEW
In my opinion, none of the three courts correctly addressed this case.  Wether definable as such by law, the behavior of these young ladies was “delinquent”, although not criminal.  The use of terms such as “fuck”, “shit”, “bastard”, and “die …die” are indeed obscene and an abuse of the right of free speech. 

A.B. takes the opportunity to rant about school policy and Mr. Gobert’s enforcement of that policy in one of her posts.  However, each post must be viewed independently.  From my understanding, several subsequent posts failed to include any “political” agenda.  Additionally, the communication was not directed at Mr. Gobert.  In fact, Mr. Gobert had to take extreme measures to be “harassed”.  From the information provided us, it is also difficult to distinguish any injury to Mr. Gobert.   

It amazes me how much dialog is continuously dedicated to all of the rights that we enjoy in our “free” society and how little is dedicated to the associated responsibilities.  Although not criminal, A.B.’s actions were, simply wrong.  For the benefit of this child, some form of discipline would be advisable.  We might expect, although not condone, this type of behavior from boys.  It is, however, even more shocking coming from girls. 

I would be remiss if I did not contribute a word on our poor, victimized Mr. Gobert.  I find it hard to accept that a middle-aged, middle school professional administrator, who is supposed to be trained in dealing with juveniles, can consider himself “harassed” at the hands of a pre-teen girl.  Citizens and taxpayers of Indiana should consider the significant costs that have been incurred as a result of this case. 

From the beginning, there was little doubt that A.B. behaved poorly.  However, finding criminality in her actions took a good deal of imagination.  Even worse, though, is that A.B.’s family appealed a lenient nine month probation sentence on a juvenile record.  Some discipline could have proved to be quite beneficial for this young lady.  Her juvenile record eventually would have been sealed.  In stead, over protective parents, who are unable to see fault in their progeny, throw untold sums to get their poor little princess out of a couple of hours of community service.  These parents did their daughter no favors. 

We will have to save this discussion for a future post.          

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About Jesse Alber

Jesse Alber attained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Speech Communications with an Athletic Coaching Endorsement from Hastings College in May, 1993. From 1994 - 2000, Alber served in leadership roles in human resources, retail, and production. Alber enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2000. He served as a Armored Cavalry Scout and Troop Training Manager with A 3/7 CAV 3d ID until 2004. Alber deployed to Bosnia in 2001 and Kwait / Iraq in 2003. Alber served in the Army Reserves from 2005 - 2008. From 2004 - 2010 Alber served as the Adult Education Coordinator for Central Community College and Executive Director for the Hastings Literacy Program. Alber returned to Hastings College in 2010 to study Computer Science and Web Design. He is currently emploed as a Programming and Web Development Intern with Servi-Tech Industries. Alber will complete his program of study in the summer of 2012.
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