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BLHS student in trouble over incendiary comments

February 1, 2014
By RICHARD SBERNA - Wellsville Reporter (rsberna@reviewonline.com) , The Review

LISBON -Many people find inspiration in celebrating the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on the national holiday honoring his memory through acts of community service and other volunteer efforts. A student at Beaver Local High School, however, was inspired in an uglier fashion, with words that may have prompted some very serious attention.

The student, whose identity is being withheld since he is a juvenile, is a junior classman and football player at BLHS.

In advance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 20, he engaged in a discussion on Twitter regarding the legacy of MLK. The student argued that King wasn't important enough to merit a holiday, and that Beaver Local students should get classes off for Veteran's Day instead.

"He didn't save your [a**] and your country did he? Nope. He had a dream tho, let's close school," he writes. The student's next Tweet went beyond merely using offensive language, however, and may have attracted the attention of federal authorities.

"I don't understand why we get [N****r] Day off but we can't get Veterans Day off," he writes. "We oughta shoot [President] Obama, then we'll have the whole [f*****g] week off."

The student's account has since disappeared from Twitter.

BLHS Principal Tom Cunningham says school administrators were alerted by people who had read the student's posts and forwarded screenshots to Assistant Principal Jayson Yeagley. "We started receiving some emails that there was a Beaver Local student who was posting things that were racially insensitive and we should look at that," Cunningham said.

Neither Cunningham nor Superintendent Kent Polen would comment on any administrative action taken against the student following an internal investigation into the Tweets. Cunningham also refused to confirm or deny if the school had been in contact with Secret Service agents or other state or federal authorities.

He did say that the school has a policy regarding student internet usage within the school, but that online comments aren't usually subject to disciplinary action. "Unless it directly involves the school, there's really not a whole lot you can do about it," Cunningham said. "Freedom of speech."

Cunningham says there have been no problems involving the treatment of minority students or racial relations at the school during his tenure. "I would put our students up against anybody's regarding respectful behavior," he said. "We have a good student body."

The Review has been unable to confirm reports that the student is being investigated by agents from the U.S. Secret Service. According to a manual called Protective Intelligence & Threat Assessment Investigations: A Guide for State and Local Law Enforcement Officials found on the agency's Web site, the student's comments may meet the standard for such treatment.

"Threats should always be taken seriously and investigated," it states. "Even if a threat is not an early warning of attack, making a threat is usually a violation of law, which is a valid reason for opening an investigation."

 
 

 

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