by Megan Haymond
With the start of a new school year, California Glendale Unified School District has made many teens’ fears their reality. The school district hired a private company, Geo Listening, to scan their students social networking sites for key words. The goal of the program is to promote student safety by looking for posts related to self-harm, drug use, and cyber-bullying.
Many may be quick to suggest it’s a violation of the first amendment right to free speech or the fourth amendment ban on unwarranted search and seizure, but because the school is private and the company only scans social networks marked public, it is not in violation of any law. If a social media account has no privacy measures taken on it, the user has given consent for it to be read by anyone, including school officials. When ABC Los Angeles inquired about privacy rights the company responded by saying, “All of the individual posts we monitor on social media networks are already made public by the students themselves. Therefore, no privacy is violated.”
While the program has positive intentions, it could possibly have many negative affects. What happens when the school misses a tweet or post about self-harm and the student commits suicide later on? Does that make the school liable? Also, it brings to question the role of a school. Are schools responsible for the emotional and physical safety of their students when they are outside school’s doors? Traditionally schools have kept the social lives of students out of the classroom, but all too often what happens on the weekends comes to first period algebra, which places the school in a difficult situation.
Bellbrook High School has done a marvelous job balancing problems outside of school and at home. When a problem has been brought to the attention of administrators, the school will get involved if deemed appropriate, but they actively try to encourage students to leave their social lives at the door when entering the high school. In fact during freshman orientation school principal, Mr. Baker, instructed upcoming students that all problems with other students are left outside of school to promote a safe learning environment.
When junior Katelyn York was asked to share her opinion on the actions of the Glendale Unified School District and how she would feel if a similar program were implemented at BHS she said, “I would feel violated and angry [if BHS monitored students’ tweets]. I understand if the school wants to monitor cyber bullying, but I think it’s a violation of privacy. If students want to help a victim of bullying, they should be mature and contact an adult. I feel like it would almost cause more problems.” She also went on to explain that she felt it wasn’t fair to students because, “Students use social networking to express themselves and by monitoring it, you limit their ability to discover how to express themselves in a mature, appropriate way on their own.”
On the contrary, senior Noah Stork said, “I would feel a tad creeped out at the thought of the administrators viewing all my tweets, but they are open to the public and I choose to keep it that way, so I’m not in a position where I can complain.” On the legality of it, Stork remarked, “I think it is fair and lawful. The students choose to attend the school, knowing it is private. The students also choose to keep their accounts public.”
If you would like more information on Ohio’s cyber-bullying laws and codes dealing with students and social media check out the link below: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3313.666