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I’m pretty pissed off about this.
There is a”charter” high school in Florida called Gateway Charter. Gateway is run by Charter Schools USA, Inc., a for-profit corporation. Parents of some of the Gateway students were concerned about the school’s policies and personnel, and created an online messageboard to discuss and vent their frustrations.
Last week, Charter Schools USA sent threatening letters, demanding that the parents “immediately cease and desist your continuous published libel and defamatory accusations, comments and statements”.
So once it’s corporatized, it is illegal to criticize your kids’ school.
Well, not really. This is clearly, blatantly a bullshit intimidation technique to shut up folks who might be exposing real problems with this school.
For these claims to be libel, these parents would have to be knowingly publishing information that was false, with the explicit intention of hurting the company. Hell, you could argue pretty well that no one was “publishing” anything, that messageboard posts are a conversation, not a newspaper.
This is the primary difference between public institutions and private ones. A public institution, like public schools, are supposed to be accountable to those they serve. A public school is supposed to actually listen to parents’ concerns and try to respond as best as they can. Hell, members of local school boards are usually directly elected by the community.
Private/corporate institutions are accountable solely to their shareholders, whom no one elected. If you have a question about their inner workings, you will likely be told that it is a “trade secret”, if they bother responding to you at all. And apparently, instead of listening to and trying to fix problems, they’d prefer to sue people to make them stop mentioning that there are problems at all.
Of course, that’s all theory. In plenty of ways, most public institutions are just as publicly unaccountable as their corporate counterparts (e.g. The Government). Still, why you’d take something from public hands and put it into private hands, to eliminate even a modicum of public responsibility, is beyond me.
However, the happy side of this story is that Charter Schools USA fucked up. Instead of managing to quiet 60+ anxious parents, they are now getting nation-wide press exposing them for the ruthless bastards they are. It’s so nice to see PR backfire.
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