A high school principal has been relieved of his duties — at least temporarily — after he criticized social media censorship to students this week.
Principal Barton Thorne, who leads Cordova High School in Tennessee’s Shelby County Schools “was critical of the riots at the Capitol,” WREG reported, but “he objected to actions taken by several social media platforms.”
“It’s what’s going on with Twitter and Facebook and Google and Apple, and their decision as private companies to filter and to decide what you, you hear and know about,” Thorne told students in a recording which the news station did not air.
Thorne reportedly did not make the comments in defense of President Donald Trump, but rather free speech.
“That was ignorance at the highest level,” he said of the riot. “I don’t know of too many people that are going to be okay with what happened. I don’t care what side you agree with, we don’t practice sedition, we don’t attack our legislature.”
Via the Commercial Appeal:
Free speech was being threatened, he alleged, by the actions of privately held social media and tech companies — such as regulating users and applications — being made without oversight of a publicly elected body. …
In his comments to the school Monday, Thorne told students that “a marketplace of free exchange of ideas” was at stake, and that students should be concerned that there is not elected accountability for the social media and tech platforms and only financial power from users. The lack of accountability “should be very chilling for you, that should be very frightening for you,” he said.
“Because there have been times even in American history where a small group of people decided what you could hear. You think about ‘McCarthyism,'” he said.
“If you don’t know about that, you can Google that or talk to your social studies teacher,” Thorne said, ironically recommending students use a service accused of censoring conservative viewpoints.
“The principal at Cordova High School has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the review of the comments that were made,” district spokeswoman Jerrica Phillips told the news station.
Michael Lowe, with the district’s “Office of Equity and Access,” said sometimes people need to “temper back” their comments in “emotionally charged” situations.
“Individuals who are inciting violence should be removed,” Thorne told the Commercial Appeal, referring to the social platforms.
“With the horrific events from last week at our U.S. Capitol, we have to ensure our children, teachers, and school staff remain in a consistent environment that promotes safety, cultural sensitivity, and represents the highest level of excellence,” School board member Shelead Harris said.
“As leaders, we must be intentional about creating spaces for our students to discuss and process events that take place in our country and community.”
She called Thorne’s opinions “extremely unfortunate.”