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N.Y. student suspended after controversial Twitter hashtag

By Chris Boyette, CNN
updated 8:45 PM EDT, Fri May 24, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Student in New York creates hashtag over school budget
  • Pat Brown says he is suspended for three days
  • Brown: School cites phone in class, harassment of principal
  • School district will not discuss specifics

(CNN) -- An upstate New York student said he got a three-day suspension for creating a controversial Twitter hashtag encouraging discussion of the school district's failed budget.

Pat Brown, a senior at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, says he created #s**tCNSshouldcut to brainstorm ways his school could save money in response to voters on Tuesday rejecting a $144.7 million budget plan. The budget did not receive the 60% voter approval it needed.

Many students were concerned, Brown said, because the school board had warned that if a new budget was not eventually passed, they might have to eliminate athletic programs, other extra-curricular activities and introduce additional administrative cuts, including the elimination of some teacher positions.

The budget is up for a revote on June 18.

"Everyone on Twitter was talking about 'I can't believe the budget didn't pass' and so I created (the hashtag) as a joke, really," Brown told CNN on Friday.

At first, according to Brown, his ideas for cutting the school budget were meant to be funny and absurd. They included cutting the lights because if teachers weren't being paid, students would have no schoolwork they'd have to see. He also suggested holding classes outside to save on air conditioning costs.

Students at the school joined in on Twitter, using the hashtag with their own cost-cutting ideas.

"Anime club" said @JackThaJuiceMan.

"Cheerleading" said @jamierunge.

"There's honestly not much left at this point," wrote @MichaelBrisson.

Brown, 18, says the tweet that got him in trouble was a call for the termination of the school's executive principal.

"I said we should cut her, because I don't think she does a good job. But that's just my opinion I was sharing on Twitter," he said.

According to Brown, on Thursday he was called into the office and told he would be suspended for three days for harassing the principal, using a mobile phone in class and disrupting the learning environment.

North Syracuse Central School District Superintendent Dr. Kim Dyce Faucette told CNN she was aware of the situation, but could not comment on disciplinary matters related to specific pupils.

"We have a student code of conduct that is a policy we abide by," said Faucette. "Students and parents know the expectations of this policy, and whenever a situation arises where a student does not meet those expectations we deal with it accordingly."

Brown, an executive board member for his class on the student council and a community volunteer, says he has never been in trouble with the school before.

While he admits to using his phone in class, Brown said his teacher never addressed it at the time, and he never threatened anyone.

"I'm not a bad student," Brown said. "CNS says they want student involvement in what goes on in our school, and next thing I know I'm in trouble. A 45-year-old man can speak his opinions about the school district, but I can't because I'm a student?"

"I just want (the school board) to remove the suspension from my record and choose their battles better," said Brown, who played on the school lacrosse team.

Brown's original tweets have since been deleted. He said he will be allowed to graduate and take part in graduation ceremonies with his class. But he said he still feels like his reputation has been tarnished.

"I really don't plan on filing any appeal or anything. I really just wanted my opinion out there. They seem to have all the power so I went and got more power with social media."

By Friday, a new hashtag had emerged: #FreePatBrown.

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