Thursday, May 25, 2006


Beware of the Blog

The ironically named town of Libertyville, Illinois, is planning to have its school district keep tabs on its high school students' blogs and other Internet presence:

The board of Community High School District 128 voted unanimously on Monday to require that all students participating in extracurricular activities sign a pledge agreeing that evidence of "illegal or inappropriate" behavior posted on the Internet could be grounds for disciplinary action.
Apparently, the system will be based on tips from "another student, a parent or a community member."

One parent opines that the school district is out of line on this, that such monitoring is the parents' job. I agree. I think it's good for school counsellors to get involved at the request of the affected student's parent (if for instance, the parent asks for help in dealing with it). And, of course, if there's something the police should clearly be called in for, that should be done. But one parent's view of what's "inappropriate" may differ vastly from another's, and the school district should not be making such judgements about what students do outside of school.

Associate Superintendent Prentiss Lea has this to say about it:

"The concept that searching a blog site is an invasion of privacy is almost an oxymoron," he said. "It is called the World Wide Web."
He seems to miss the point; we're not talking, here, about someone from the school just reading the student's blog. We're talking about making a judgement about whether it's "inappropriate", and taking "disciplinary action" based on that judgement.

The brief article says nothing about any definitions of "inappropriate" (I suspect they'll have to go with the Potter Stewart line on that), nor what disciplinary action might be taken. I'd like to know more — and perhaps if I did, I'd have a different opinion on it (if, for instance, any action would only be taken with agreement from the student's parents). But with the limited information I have, I'm concerned that it's another step down the wrong road.

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