Last December, shortly before Christmas break, 17-year-old student Michael Moroz decided to write an opinion piece in his school newspaper. He chose a dangerous topic: racism in Missouri, Black Lives Matter, and the death of Michael Brown.
In his paper, Michael criticized the protests in Missouri as an “overreaction” and suggested Michael Brown was “a delinquent.” At worst, he was “justifiably killed, and at best, a thug.”
Threats started pouring in as soon as the article went live on the school’s Facebook page. Michael was taken by surprise. “Whenever we posted an op-ed, we never got a reaction like I did with this one. In retrospect, I was naïve to think that this would have been the same. Now, it’s more disappointing than anything.”
Michael stayed home from school for a few days until he though things had blown over. They had not. The harassment was so bad that Michael was forced to withdraw from school and finish his senior year at home.
The harassment has not stopped. Michael has even received threatening messages from his former teachers and staff.
Michael’s article ran alongside another column written in support of the demonstrations at the University of Missouri – protests that were triggered by accusations that the school was slow to react to racist occurances on campus. The school president was forced to resign.
Meanwhile, Michael’s article was taken off the school’s Facebook page along with a comment which read, “Neither the Centralizer nor its members necessarily agree with the content/message of the piece. However, the situation has escalated such that the writer and editors on the staff have received direct threats.”
“His claims were investigated and the students who threatened him were disciplined according to the code of conduct. The school accommodated his requests for a police escort and independent study,” announced a Central High School spokesperson.
But this is what Michael had to say about the school’s discipline: “If someone who called for me to be shot gets a day suspension, then I imagine these students got a stern high five…If I made threats on Twitter against someone who wrote a pro-Black Lives Matter column, I wouldn’t be getting any leniency,” he continued. “It’s been more than one person and the school isn’t doing anything about it.”
Author’s Note: Maybe the article was crass, insensitive, or even racist, but the fact is – his column was an opinion piece.The school’s censorship represents a restriction of Michael’s Freedom of Speech. And the school’s failure to adequately punish threatening students shows a fear of political incorrectness that could prove detrimental to students in the future.