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KELLY: Behave yourself on Facebook

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A University of Florida student is suing her high school to have a suspension expunged from her record. Katherine Evans, a sophomore, was suspended her senior year of high school for creating a Facebook page criticizing a teacher.

The page was G-rated, calling on her English classmates to “express your feelings of hatred” toward the teacher.

Everyone has had problems with an authority figure. Personalities differ. Sometimes, you just don’t get along with a coach, teacher or administrator. (I’m looking at you, Mr. Missey).

The school claimed Evans was cyberbullying the teacher, which they saw as grounds for suspension. Forget for a moment that Evans is now a sophomore in college, so her permanent record from high school is, as far as I can tell, pretty much meaningless.

Even though the principal in this case channeled his inner Ed Rooney and suspended Evans for a pointless reason and is now refusing to remove the suspension, she still isn’t completely right.

I could be wrong, but I doubt Evans would have told the teacher she hated her to her face. I’ve had plenty of teachers I didn’t get along with, but always stopped short of dropping that kind of bomb in person.

Just because you can vent on sites like Facebook, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Ranting about your teacher on the Internet is certainly within your rights, but you need to be aware of the consequences.

Free speech is important. No one’s arguing that. It’s what separates the United States from oppressive communist regimes like Canada (Oh, sorry, I’m getting my Olympic hockey opponents confused).

Evans’ lawyer, who is unsurprisingly an associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, called the ruling “an important victory both for Ms. Evans and Internet free speech.”

I’m all for First Amendment rights, but just because you have a right doesn’t mean you have to exercise it.

In high school, about 60 of my classmates and I got in trouble for being members of a group, ridiculously titled “Women Should Not Be Allowed To Vote.” We thought it was clearly a joke. And we were clearly morons. The administration rightly saw otherwise. After spending eight hours on a Saturday cleaning every inch of our school, we learned the hard way that regarding your online post, it isn’t your intentions that matter, but how others might perceive them.

On Sunday, a University of Oregon football player was kicked off the team because of — you guessed it — a Facebook post.

Wide receiver Jamere Holland took to the social networking site to write an impassioned, expletive-laden defense of teammate Kristian Kiko Alonso, who was booted from the team for reasons Holland thought were unfair.

A kind and cautious Oregon fan reminded Holland that there are blogs devoted to jumping all over scandalous pages like his. He eventually removed the post. But by then, the damage was done, and Holland joined Alonso as former Ducks.

The moral of these stories is simple. In the immortal words of my high school history teacher: “Don’t be an idiot.”

Several times a day and whenever we were being dumb, he would remind us not to be an idiot. It became his unofficial motto. It was funny, but the message stayed with me.

Who we are online is an extension of who we are in real life. Our schools, future employers, even the police can learn about us without our knowledge.

It’s weird — we’re the first generation to have our lives so open to the world. But it’s important to keep that in mind when we’re on sites like Facebook, so you don’t make the mistake Evans, Holland and I did.

Or you can do what I do. To steal a line from Dwight Schrute: “Whenever I’m about to do something, I think, ‘Would an idiot do that?’ And if they would, then I do not do that thing.”

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