The Maths room has unfortunately acquired a little of a network-wide reputation for the misuse of the flag tool. This is regrettable, because I feel it has stifled the use of this important moderation tool to the point where this message slipped through the cracks, unnoticed, for 20 hours. And it sat there on the starred list all along for 20 hours.
Emphasis is mine.
@robjohn Another thing about the situation that bothers me is this: if someone writes "fuck" or "cunt" or similar words they might get flagged and possibly subsequently banned from chat. On the other hand, if you're a passive-agressive little cunt that personally attacks single users without using any swear words then... nothing happens. Something is messed up here, me thinks. — Matt N. May 31st 2013 5:32 PM
You have to scroll up a few screenfuls, climbing up the chain of replies (1 2 3 4), to understand that this was most certainly referred directly to skullpatrol, and not any generic person.
Of course you have to be nice, and Skullpatrol is one of the most flagged users on chat. I haven't interacted with skullpatrol a lot (and when I have, skullpatrol got flagged a handful of times for no obvious reasons), but I haven't seen him call people cunts. His flag history shows plenty of messages that are merely annoying and the only form of abuse worth mentioning is MathJax-based or ping-based. There's very little in his flag report, ultimately, that supports your thesis.
So what you can do is:
- Never, ever, ever crawl down to their level. Or even lower. I don't know what you were thinking there. Skullpatrol only having ~300 reputation is not a green light to call people names.
- Stop flagging stuff that isn't worth flagging, or you'll make people afraid of using the tool when it should be used.
- Aside: Maths moderators (and only them) can see who flags what in a Maths room and punish them accordingly.
- Yes, please do flag messages that are worthy of flagging, even if swear words aren't directly used. Telling people that they should just give up on Maths forever and flip burgers for a living instead is an example.
- Make your flags timely. A flag 20 hours after the fact, while the user is offline, is worth basically nothing. Flag immediately. When in doubt, flag. Your regrettable reputation is for poor flagging, not for excessive flagging. It's clear you haven't been flagging enough of the stuff that deserves flagging.
- Build an history of messages that are worthy of action. This will help immensely moderators in writing the moderator message they'll send your target as they announce them their nice, long and deserved suspension from chat (if any).
- Of course chat regulars probably have a few accidents in mind and can use the search tool to dig up a few past instances of users being nasty to each other. If you feel you can dig up enough instances of bad behaviour from one user to result in action, do and send them privately to either one of your fine moderators (if they've published their email addresses in their profile page) or directly to Stack Exchange.