High school principal placed on leave after standing up for free speech, against Big Tech censorship

by WorldTribune Staff, January 18, 2021

A high school principal in Tennessee’s Shelby County was placed on leave after he told students that social media censorship is a threat to free speech.

Cordova High School Principal Barton Thorne

Cordova High School Principal Barton Thorne “was critical of the riots at the Capitol,” WREG reported, but he also “objected to actions taken by several social media platforms.”

“It’s what’s going on with Twitter and Facebook and Google and Apple, and their decision as private companies to filter and to decide what you, you hear and know about,” Thorne told students in a recording.

“The principal at Cordova High School has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the review of the comments that were made,” school district spokeswoman Jerrica Phillips told the news station.

Thorne told his students that free speech was being threatened by the actions of social media and tech companies — such as regulating users and applications — being made without oversight of a publicly elected body, the Commercial Appeal reported.

In his comments to the school, Thorne told students that “a marketplace of free exchange of ideas” was at stake, and that students should be concerned that there is not elected accountability for the social media and tech platforms and only financial power from users. The lack of accountability “should be very chilling for you, that should be very frightening for you,” he said.

“Because there have been times even in American history where a small group of people decided what you could hear. You think about McCarthyism,” he said.

Michael Lowe, with the school district’s “Office of Equity and Access,” said sometimes people need to “temper back” their comments in “emotionally charged” situations.

School board member Shelead Harris said: “With the horrific events from last week at our U.S. Capitol, we have to ensure our children, teachers, and school staff remain in a consistent environment that promotes safety, cultural sensitivity, and represents the highest level of excellence. As leaders, we must be intentional about creating spaces for our students to discuss and process events that take place in our country and community.”

Harris called Thorne’s opinions “extremely unfortunate.”

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