Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Angry Teachers

By Shawn Healy
One need only type in the key words angry teacher on YouTube and pull up 231 postings of student videos recorded on camera phones of their teachers acted in various states of anger and general discord. This phenomenon attracted the attention of the Los Angeles Times and Bill O'Reilly yesterday, and sets forth an interesting debate as school districts nationwide contemplate cell phone bans. New York City joined this fray, but some are weary of blanket bans in the aftermath of Columbine when students relied upon cell phones to notify authorities of the massacre. On the other hand, cell phones can certainly be a distraction and impede the educational process, representing a substantial distruption lending itself to school discipline.

Several issues should be considered in light of this controversy:

1. Should students be able to record and broadcast the classroom performances of their teachers, good or bad? Is the First Amendment implicated here?

2. Can teachers recorded on such videos be held liable for harassment and face punishment as a result?

3. Is there a middle ground here where cell phones are confiscated only when they are visible or audible by school employees?

4. Are cell phones a contributor to a safer school environment in light of Columbine?

5. Are blanket bans enforceable short of metal detectors and pat-downs at the schoolhouse gate?

I invite you to weigh in on these questions and more generally on this pressing digital age issue.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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