National Coalition Against Censorship to Westonka: 'Don’t Shake Down Kids Over Harlem Shake'
"By policing online student speech and levying punishments for participation in a harmless Internet fad, school officials are being far more 'disruptive' to the learning environment than these videos could ever be" said Joan Bertin, Executive Director of
The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) issued a statement Thursday (available online) sharply criticizing school administrators across the country for levying suspensions on students for filming or participating in the popular “Harlem Shake” video meme.
- Mound Westonka Places Athletic Director on Leave Following 'Harlem Shake' Suspensions
- Westonka Resident Seeks Answers from Superintendent About 'Harlem Shake' Suspensions
In addition to the suspensions at Mound Westonka High School, so far hundreds of students have been punished for their involvement in the making of one of thousands of videos in this most recent and pervasive Internet trend.
- The Mound-Westonka community in Minnesota was angered and disappointed when students—including six hockey players—were suspended hours before a critical and ultimately season-ending game.
- At least 30 students were suspended from Milford High School in Highland, MI in what seems to be the only Harlem Shake video featuring a live duck (it is a student’s pet duck).
- Three baseball players who attend Titusville High School were suspended for their version in Brevard County, Florida. The last time Brevard made national news, was when it banned–then unbanned–Fifty Shades of Grey.
- Nyack and Tappan Zee High School students also faced dashed hockey playoff hopes when the team was ruled ineligible to compete due to disciplinary action after making a Harlem Shake video.
- Before the filming could even take place, and despite attempting to call it off, a student who had organized his classmates to make a video was suspended from Forest Hills High School in Queens, NY.
- Over 40 students from grades eight through twelve were suspended from Calvary Baptist Academy in Louisiana for participating in the video, deemed “vulgar” by school officials.
- Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania suspended 11 student-athletes for their version.
- Thirteen students at Brownsville High School in western Pennsylvania were suspended after making a version. A school official called filming in a classroom “a safety issue.”
“Enforcing ideas of propriety regarding student’s extra-curricular activities does nothing to advance their education, even as it infringes on students’ rights to express themselves and add their creative variation of the dance to those of thousands of others online,” the statement read.
"By policing online student speech and levying punishments for participation in a harmless Internet fad, school officials are being far more 'disruptive' to the learning environment than these videos could ever be" said Joan Bertin, Executive Director of NCAC.
The Harlem Shake controversy is simply the latest in a growing trend of administrative censorship and punishment in response to online student speech.
NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Project counters the growing hysteria around young people’s access to culture. With the message that excessive attempts to control and restrict what kids read, create, watch and play are counterproductive, NCAC supports policies that emphasize educating young people on how to be literate participants in contemporary culture.