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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Update Nov. 28, 2009

I've posted some FAQs and a summary of comments here.

Update Nov. 14, 2009:
Hello Farkers, Redditors, Twitterers, etc.!

Within hours of this page going up, an army of hundreds (thousands?) of people materialized out of nowhere, with meep as their battle cry! It's an amazing and beautiful thing.

I've enjoyed reading everyone's amusing and clever comments. I've also gotten a large number of friendly emails, and some bcc's of entertaining emails to the school officials. I'm sorry I won't be able to reply to everyone individually, but to everyone: thank you! I'm very, very happy to see so many people willing to take a stand for freedom of speech, and against stupidity. As others have said, if the Danvers police come after us, we'll be having one heck of a jailhouse party. :-)

Meep on!

An open letter to Principal Murray of Danvers High School (MA):


Theodora Michaels

Perhaps by now you've read some of the articles (and associated entertaining comments, such as those at Fark) about how Principal Murray has tried to ban his students from saying meep.

It's been a long time since I was in high school, but I still remember what it was like to be young, and chafing under what seemed like arbitrary and capricious rules set down by school authorities.

So in solidarity with the students of Danvers High, and on my own initiative, I took about five seconds and sent an email to Principal Thomas Murray ( ), Assistant Principal Mark Strout ( ), Assistant Principal Cornelia Varoudakis ( ), and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lisa Dana ( ). All of these addresses are publicly available on the Danvers High School website.

My subject line said (in full), "meep." The body said (in full), "Meep."

Yesterday I received a reply email from Assistant Principal Mark Strout, which said (in full) "Your E-mail has been forwarded to the Danvers Police Department."

LOLwut? That simultaneously annoyed and amused me enough to write this article. (Plus, my train was late.)

First, apparently this school doesn't know how email works. If they don't like getting emails that say "meep" -- and I'm assuming they got others before they got mine -- it should be a simple matter for the school's IT person to set their email program to filter all external emails that say meep and send them straight into the trash. Then there'd be no need to even look at them, let alone reply to or forward them.

Second, apparently they don't know how the law works. I haven't researched Massachusetts law, but I'm assuming there's no law that would prevent me from sending a single, non-commercial email, containing a single nonsense "word" (but impliedly relating to their work as school officials) to adults at their publicly-posted work emails. And if there were such a law, it would not survive a constitutional challenge. So I don't understand the point of Mr. Strout's email, unless he's hoping to scare me into -- what, not emailing "meep" ever again? Or more generally not criticizing his performance as a school official?

Gee, I'm scared -- maybe the Danvers police will come to NYC to arrest me! I guess they'll also try to extradite people who (I'm guessing) sent emails from other countries. We can be charged with . . . what, first degree meeping? Yeah, good luck with that.

Third, and most important, Messrs. Murray and Strout don't understand human nature. People -- especially teenagers -- don't like following pointless rules. To the point where they'll go out of their way to rebel against them (and I took five seconds out of my busy day), even if said rebellion itself is rather pointless. I get nothing out of saying meep. But I will vigorously defend my -- and others' -- right to say it.

To be clear, I'm not advocating rule-breaking in general; usually it's a bad idea. Certainly there are many rules laid down by adults which might seem pointless to young people, but which are actually sensible and important, and based on the adults' greater knowledge and experience. Likewise there are many laws and ordinances which might seem pointless to the average adult, but which are based on careful study and consideration by, say, experts in fire safety. We should follow those rules whether or not we fully understand their purpose. And of course there are inevitably some laws, ordinances and rules about which intelligent and reasonable people might disagree on whether they are necessary and important, or arbitrary and capricious.

This is not one of those times. Only a complete idiot would try to make and enforce (to teenagers, yet!) a rule that says "You're not allowed to say meep." And email a stranger in another state (an attorney, yet!) that there's (impliedly) something illegal about sending an email that says "meep."

And finally, Messrs. Murray and Strout don't understand how the internet works. Attempts to silence information -- or even nonsense -- are consistently met with a proliferation of that very information (or nonsense) beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Anyone who tries to stop people's honest criticism of their conduct -- especially if they show that they're highly sensitive to criticism (Going to the police? Seriously?) -- is likely to be the target of further criticism. Their overreaction becomes a source of lulz.

So to sum up, Principal Murray and Assistant Principal Strout have provided an astonishingly stereotypical example of cluelessness.

In conclusion, meep.