When Caley Godino pressed the button to Tweet out a message about low voter turnout in the Revere City Election and how it relates to people who are not here legally, she had no idea it would lead to threats of physical harm, cyber-bullying and, allegedly, getting kicked off the cheerleading team during her senior year.
But that’s exactly what happened, said Godino and her family, including her mother Lauren Kelly, and they said they are trying to sort out why it is that Godino was punished for her comment, and others were not punished for the threats.
“They just didn’t give me clear answers,” said Godino. “I still don’t exactly understand why I am in trouble…I can’t go to any school events and I got removed from the cheerleading team and I can’t even attend a game. It’s my senior year and I was the captain of the team. I missed all my tournaments and I hadn’t even had senior night…Some of the kids from the soccer team who actually threatened me with their Tweets had a state tournament soccer game the day I showed their threats to the school and they still played. They had another game a few days later and they played in that too. I was wondering if they would get to play and I checked and they did.”
Said Kelly, “This was really a case of her using bad judgment and then becoming the victim. One thing that bothers me that wasn’t pointed out is the people who responded with Tweets made some serious threats. Even though she started it and used poor judgment, the reactions that came out of it was really dangerous threats. I felt really disappointed they didn’t get the same punishment.”
Supt. Dianne Kelly (not related) said there is sometimes more to the story than meets the eye.
“One thing that’s important to know is when we hear pieces of a story in the news, it’s not typically the whole story,” she said. “I am not at liberty to talk about student discipline or a student’s records. What we read is not necessarily the whole story sometimes.”
The school responded to the incident by starting a new curriculum around cultural sensitivity and being able to articulate their thoughts in a respectful way.
The situation arose, Godino said, on Nov. 4, the day after the City Election.
She was on a field trip outside the school building when she and other students got a Tweet from her Civics teacher. The Tweet was to spur thought about the low voter turnout in the City Election – saying only 10 percent of Revere ended up voting, and what the students thought about that. (Turnout was actually about 41 percent in the last City Election, rather than 10 percent).
Godino Tweeted back, “10 percent of Revere voted because the others are not legal.”
Godino said it wasn’t meant to hurt anyone. School officials have said they don’t believe she had any ill intentions, either.
However, the Tweet took off and people began to send messages back saying it wasn’t right. She immediately realized she had probably made a mistake, and deleted the Tweet.
But what’s on the Internet stays on the Internet.
“It ended up going viral,” she said.
Soon, however, threats began to pour in.
One person said they were going to wait for the bus to come back to the field trip; some soccer players said they were going to get their [slur deleted] crew and come for her; others said slurs about white people in Spanish and English.
“Reverse racism is not real,” read one Tweet.
“Is it possible to be racist to a white person?” read another.
Said Godino, “Cultures in my school segregate and stick together. On this, they were all attacking me together and saying they were going to stand up for each other. The kids from Chelsea and Everett were saying it was a bond between them to get me.“
Most of the kids, she said, she knew by name and identified to the administration.
Godino said she was never completely worried for her safety, but the schools certainly were.
“The administration was definitely worried about my safety and asked if I wanted a police officer to escort me to and from classes,” she said. “I said ‘no’ because I’ve known these kids for four years and gone to school with them. I think a lot are social media thugs and all talk on this. When it came to kids from other schools, I was a little bit frightened because the Chelsea and Everett Tweets were from kids I didn’t know. I got dirty looks at school, but nothing major.”
What was major, Godino and her mother said, was the alleged punishment that came out of the situation.
Originally, Kelly said that the administration wanted Godino to go through cultural sensitivity training – as several students in the school apparently had an illegal status. Kelly said she supported it fully and was disappointed with her daughter’s judgment in Tweeting out the message.
However, they said she wouldn’t be disciplined due to the fact that her 1st Amendment Rights protected her.
“They said I had the Right to Free Speech and the First Amendment protected this and I should lay low and not Tweet anymore,” Godino said.
However, the next day everything allegedly changed.
Both said that the schools called and said they slept on it and decided Godino needed to be disciplined. They gave her social probation, which meant she was off the cheerleading team and couldn’t attend or participate in any school events. Originally it was through Jan. 25, but after a series of appeal where Kelly produced legal cases backing up her position, the probation was concluded at early December.
“I asked them what happened and they said that the kids were just so upset by this that they had to make them happy,” said Kelly. “What about my daughter?”