When does the school day end?

An Oak Forest sophomore was handed a 5-day suspension last week for creating a Facebook group bashing a teacher. His parents are threatening to sue, the district acknowledges that it’s wading into murky legal waters, and frankly, everyone involved looks a little petty.

There are legal questions (does the school district have jurisdiction in cyberspace?) and moral ones (isn’t this a job for parents?) and ones about the nuances of the law (when does just being mean turns into a threat?).

But the more interesting question, and the one with farther-reaching consequences, is this: When does the school day end? I don’t know, but it’s definitely not when the bell rings at 2:45.

As schools continue to fil roles that used to be considered purely domestic territory, don’t they expand their disciplinary reach, too? Schools feed our kids breakfast and keep an eye on them after school. They are the first line of public health intervention, with required vaccines and sports physicals. They teach our kids about sex, driving and baking a pie.

Many schools have made it clear that they consider anything that happens on the way to and from school — regardless of whether it occurs on school property — to be their business. And every year, we read a handful of stories about students being kicked off the soccer team for boozing at a party.

The district may have overstepped its legal bounds in suspending Justin Bird. And they certainly look silly for doing it (“my student was mean to me?!”). But I can’t say I’m surprised. They have a vested interest in both how their studients behave, and how their teachers are portrayed publicly. This is the inevitable result of school boards’ increasing presence in the lives — both academic and not — of their students.

What do you think? Does the school have the right to suspend him?

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