Charter schools critized on misleading website

March 20th, 2005 by

In the latest example of intentionally mis-leading domain names, the anti-charter school group Massachusetts Taxpayers for Accountable Spending (MTAS) registered masscharterschools.com to catch traffic headed for masscharterschools.org, home of the Massachusetts Charter School Association (MCSA)

. Although the MTAS insists that it seeks accountability and reform, it has hardly provided a mature argument opposing the charter school system. Text on the fake-out website promotes references to charter schools as “gravy sucking pigs” and suggests that the specially-focused public schools
are little more than unscrupulous money-making ventures.

“It’s most unfortunate that presumably responsible people have put this out there,” [said Education Commissioner David Driscoll]. “Our students deserve better than to have adults act this way.”– Charter school foe casts Web: Same-name site angers officials, Kevin
Rothstein, Boston Herald, 18 March 2005

So what next? Does MTAS have a legal right to operate a website that appears to have a clearly misleading domain name? Paul Schlichtman, MTAS site operator and former president of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, cites protection under the First Amendment. “It’s reasonable to put up a Web site about charter schools with a domain
name that talks about charter schools.”

Still I remain unconvinced. Although clearly unethical, I am not sure if it is unlawful. I suppose it depends on whether the MCSA previously sought trademark protection of its domain. In any case, it is disheartening to think that public discourse over the future of our state’s public education should find itself suddenly so deep in the aforementioned “gravy.”

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