Disrespect by students toward teachers -- and, for that matter, toward other students -- is a big enough problem in our schools. Sun-Times columnist John Fountain made just that point on Thursday.
The last thing we need now is students setting up Websites and Facebook pages to carry the disrespect that much further, organizing entire cyberspace campaigns of ridicule toward a teacher.
And to those defenders of such students who say they're just exercising their constitutional right to free speech, please. We're guessing they've never been teachers.
We're all for free speech. Without the First Amendment, this newspaper and every newspaper would be Pravda, the old Soviet Union rag that never dared to venture beyond the Communist Party line.
But we're talking about high school kids. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed, in numerous cases usually involving a principal's censoring of a student newspaper, that free speech for minors works best with training wheels.
What prompts these observations is a story in Monday's Sun-Times that a student at Oak Forest High School was suspended for five days for posting critical comments about a teacher on his Facebook page. He referred to the teacher in a rude way and invited similarly mean remarks from "anyone who has had a bad experience or plain dislikes the teacher."
The school was right to stand up for the teacher. The parents of the kid would be wrong to sue. If the family has a problem with the teacher, they should take it up with the principal or, if necessary, the school board.
But trashing the teacher online is pretty trashy itself.
High school is not a perfect democracy. Principals and teachers run the show, as it should be. And given the viral nature of a Facebook posting -- this stuff goes everywhere and respects no walls -- the unhappy student might just as well have been standing in the school's main lobby with a sign calling the teacher names.