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Tweets Get Student Expelled: A Cautionary Tale

Try using this incident as a jumping-off point for class discussion. Access talking points with the EducationWorld resource Lesson Plan Booster: Think Before You Hit “Send.”

Despite a seemingly endless list of incidents trumpeting the potential dangers of social media, a student athlete in New Jersey is facing harsh consequences for comments he posted online.

There are two things that separate Yuri Wright’s situation from a run-of-the-mill story of a teen’s inappropriate online behavior. The first is that Wright is a high-profile prep athlete who was at one point being recruited by some of the biggest names in college football. The second is that his online activities didn’t target anyone specific, nor did they involve nudity of any type.

The University of Michigan reportedly stopped recruiting Wright after his Tweets went public.

What Wright did do was use Twitter to publish his musings about a myriad of topics, using language that would make a drunken sailor blush. His Tweets reportedly bordered on pornographic, and certainly ran contradictory to the Catholic teachings of his high school, Don Bosco Prep. This conflict led Don Bosco administrators to expel Wright for the remainder of his senior season.

ESPN NewYork quoted Don Bosco head football coach Greg Toal condemning Wright’s online actions. "He was expelled from the school for the things he had written on Twitter," Toal told ESPN NewYork. "It was pretty simple, really. What he wrote were some graphic sex things. This is a Catholic school; things like that cannot happen. It was totally inappropriate."

Toal said Wright and his teammates were all warned about potential consequences for this type of behavior.

"We told them about 10 or 15 times to get off [Twitter] and not to be involved in it, but there is always somebody who thinks he knows better," Toal told ESPN NewYork. "What he wrote was pretty bad. To be honest with you, I can't even say what he wrote. He was told on numerous occasions not to be Twittering, and there are consequences for his actions."

The University of Colorado has reportedly offered Wright a scholarship, despite his recent brush with controversy.

Wright’s post-secondary life has also been impacted by his tweets. Many news outlets, including, are reporting that the University of Michigan has stopped recruiting him and has withdrawn any potential scholarship offers.

Early reports indicate that Wright has accepted an offer to play for the much less glamorous University of Colorado. While a fine program and outstanding school, Colorado is a far cry from the likes of Michigan, Rutgers and Notre Dame, all of which were heavily recruiting Wright before his tweets.

A former prep coach with over 20 years experience, Bob Telatnik said that Don Bosco and the University of Michigan did the right thing by distancing themselves from Wright.

“The kid broke the school rules, and as a coach you need to follow school rules and acknowledge the wrongdoing and agree with the decision,” Telatnik said. “The student was warned on several occasions that this behavior was unacceptable, but still he continued. What example would you be setting for the rest of the school or team if one student can get away with breaking rules, but not others? The punishment must fit the crime.”

A Teachable Moment for Students

Wright’s situation shines a light on a critical aspect of young people’s digital literacy and online responsibility. While what Wright tweeted may represent common locker-room banter, it certainly had different repercussions when published online. Although Wright’s Twitter feed was private (it has since been deleted), he accepted requests from over 1,600 followers, some of whom work in the media.

In framing this incident for students, it’s important to point out that Wright broke no laws and that his messages did not involve anyone other than himself. Yet, his words still had significant negative consequences. This teachable moment can be an important part of the still-evolving conversation teachers and parents must have with students regarding their online behavior.

Try using the Wright incident as a jumping-off point for class discussion. Access talking points with the EducationWorld resource Lesson Plan Booster: Think Before You Hit “Send.” See also Lesson Plan Booster: Digital Literacy and Online Ethics.

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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