The Expanding Problem of Schools & Social Media

"Warily, Schools Watch Students on the Internet." So reads a headline in the New York Times today on a matter that's now dominating the news and this blog. 

The article, written by Somini Sengupta, nicely summarizes various points of concern arising from the interaction(s) of schools, students, social media, and now state and federal courts. If readers are unfamiliar with the ethical and legal issues at stake, Sengupta's article is a good introduction. A preview:

Advertisement

For years, a school principal’s job was to make sure students were not creating a ruckus in the hallways or smoking in the bathroom. Vigilance ended at the schoolhouse gates.

Now, as students complain, taunt and sometimes cry out for help on social media, educators have more opportunities to monitor students around the clock. And some schools are turning to technology to help them. Several companies offer services to filter and glean what students do on school networks; a few now offer automated tools to comb through off-campus postings for signs of danger. For school officials, this raises new questions about whether they should — or legally can — discipline children for their online outbursts.

The problem has taken on new urgency with the case of a 12-year-old Florida girl who committed suicide after classmates relentlessly bullied her online and offline.

Sengupta also writes about a recent and alarming case out of Nevada that offers yet another example of why schools must be empowered to respond to what students post online. According to the article:

In the Nevada case, a 16-year-old boy bragged on Myspace about having guns at home, and threatened to kill fellow students on a particular date. He also cited the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, in which a troubled student killed 32 people.

The boy ended up spending 31 days in a local jail and was suspended from school for 90 days. He then sued the district, saying his free speech rights had been violated.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the claim. It called his threats “alarming” and so specific that they presented “a real risk of significant disruption” to the school. Administrators were justified, the court ruled, for penalizing what was ostensibly off-campus speech.

See the rest of the Times article here.

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Cordelia Marinello
4 years 3 months ago
Today it becomes very difficult to control students from being getting into wrong things.Social media is helpful as well as dangerous for them.The one who take benefit of it can do huge progress. http://www.ohshow.net

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Father Ireneusz Ekiert, administrator of Mary Help of Christians Church in Parkland, Fla., leads parishioners during an outdoor Stations of the Cross service on Feb. 16 dedicated to the victims and survivors of the deadly mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy)
In the midst of the unimaginable, Father Ekiert is telling his parishioners to show and live love daily—not just in a time of grief and horror.
Kate SteinFebruary 20, 2018
When I played hockey, other players of color were few and far between.
Antonio De Loera-BrustFebruary 20, 2018
Five years later, looking back on a momentous day in the life of the church
James Martin, SJFebruary 18, 2018