A more constructive conversation

  • By Peninsula Clarion Editorial
  • Saturday, January 28, 2017 9:32pm
  • Opinion

Last week, a local high school student-athlete sparked a social media firestorm with a pair of posts containing disparaging comments toward liberals, gays and Alaska Natives, and a racist post regarding outgoing President Barack Obama.

School administrators responded promptly to the posts as the district has policies in place regarding student conduct as it pertains to the school environment as well as for students involved in extracurricular activities, through which they are representing both their school and their community.

In a nutshell, students have a right to express their opinions, but it comes with the responsibility to do so in a respectful manner. According to school district policy, “schools shall not tolerate any comments or gestures which are vulgar or obscene or which denigrate others on account of gender, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, handicap, disadvantage or any other real or perceived differences.”

If only we could all live by those guidelines.

The social media posts that set off the uproar certainly were not the only ones like that to have been posted to social media. We don’t know if the student truly believes the words he posted, or if he was just posting for shock value, but we do know that over the past year, the sense of public decency and decorum has eroded dramatically. Ironically, the posts came just a few days after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when we remember the man who asked us to judge others by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, and a day before nationwide Women’s March protests, which in part were rallies against marginalizing behavior.

So, where do we go from here? What this recent controversy demonstrates is that free speech comes with responsibilities, and there can be consequences when those responsibilities are disregarded. It also shows the need for good mentors — parents, teachers, coaches — who can demonstrate what a constructive dialogue looks like. Now more than ever, we need to be able to have good conversations about our visions for the future of our communities. We need to be able to exchange ideas and debate policies from varying pints of view.

But we need to have those discussions in a way that draws our diverse community together, rather than drives individuals out.

More in Opinion

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: We’re at risk of losing our well-crafted constitution

Vote no for a constitutional convention in November.

Sticky notes filled out in response to the question “Why does Democracy and voting matter?” are photographed on Saturday, June 25, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alex Koplin)
6 words to define democracy

What words would you use?

File
Opinion: The latest gun regulation bill is nothing to cheer about

The legislation resembles the timid movements of a couple of 6-month old children…

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C. in this file photo. (File)
Opinion: The Alaskans with the power to defend America’s democracy

It’s well past time to publicly refute Trump’s lie

File
Opinion: Here’s what I expect of lawmakers in a post-Roe America

I urge lawmakers to codify abortion rights at the state and federal levels.

File
Opinion: Confusion over ranked choice voting persists

Voter confusion over ballot procedures will continue

Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Voices of the Peninsula: A vote for Walker/Drygas is a vote for Alaskans

It’s easy to forget some of the many lost lawsuits, devastating budget cuts and general incompetence that defines Mike Dunleavy’s term as governor

This photo shows a return envelop for 2022 special primary. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Voices of the Peninsula: Learn how to access your ballot

The recent special primary election was the first time the state conducted an all mail-in ballot election

Most Read