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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Inappropriate? 


Followup, concentrating on the question "What should a school district consider as inappropriate behavior for an off-campus student?"

This started with the original article (emphasis mine):


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.


In my original post, I asked:


The question is - what exactly is inappropriate?


As an example, I cited the case of a Myspace user who had offensive views (Nazi) and who engaged in offensive activity (spamming). This user's account was deleted by MySpace.

Here's part of what Scott says about the "inappropriate" portion of the school board's decision:


...Now, "inappropriate" - there's a term that's not so solid in it's definition. Is the Libertyville school district a bunch of Puritanical divas who see a great number of things as inappropriate or are they ex-hippies who just want everyone to love one another? Given the unanimous vote, I'd have to lean toward the former. So let's assume for the sake of argument that a student's parents definition of inappropriate differs from the school's. Do you think that in the end the parents give a rat's ass what the school thinks about their kid's MySpace post? I highly doubt it. Where does the school get off enforcing it's morality on their kids when they're not on school time or property? ON school time and property, the school then has some semblance of a right to impose their beliefs....

...In school it's definitely necessary to impose discipline and order in order to teach. Most teachers can't work in anarchy and parents understand that. For a school to have no rules that it can impose on it's students for the sake of order is absurd. Going a step further, however, and imposing discipline for expression outside of school is equally absurd. How many artists delve into the realm of what the school board would certainly consider inappropriate? Would Lautrec have been kicked off the Libertyville debate team because of his paintings involving the daily life of prostitutes? Would Stephen King have been sent to detention for posting his first notes from The Stand?...



Jim Downey (no, not the SNL/Letterman guy) says this:


...My last question is what is inapparopriate and who gets to determine that standard?

Will a student that voices an opinion about the school, its administration, the elected school board, or even a particular teacher be punished? I can see room for concern over the manner in which such o[p]inions are expressed, especially in terms of mere gossip, libel and/or defamation, but such an overly broad and vague set of rules seems to be unconstitutional ab initio....

...If the blog is not a sponsored school activity, the school has no jurisdiction or legal standing. If a student commits a tort against the school or a member of the school faculty, administration, staff or board, then they can pursue the matter through the generally available legal processes....



At this point, however, all of us are making assumptions regarding what Community School District 128 will deem "inappropriate." What I'd really like to see is the actual resolution passed by the board, rather than a third-party newspaper description of it. Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate a copy of the text itself. All I could find was a description in the May 22 agenda and the agenda supplement:


4. PROGRAM/PERSONNEL COMMITTEE - Chairperson Mauer
*a) 2006-07 Ombudsman Program Agreement
*b) 2006-07 Hockey Club Agreement
*c) Codes of Conduct
1) Athletic
2) Fine Arts
3) Student Activities
Item 4c – The Program & Personnel Committee will provide recommendations for the Athletic, Fine Arts and Student Activities Codes of Conduct. The proposed codes were developed based upon the work of a large District committee representing all appropriate stakeholder groups including District legal counsel. Associate Superintendent, Prentiss Lea, facilitated the process.



And for now, the district isn't talking:


Communications
Mary E. Todoric Director of Communications (847) 327-7186
Carol Szkodyn Communication and Personnel Secretary (847) 327-7185

Statement to Media Regarding Revised Codes of Conduct

Community High School District 128 has been inundated with requests for interviews regarding recent revisions to the student codes of conduct. As we enter the two busiest weeks of the school year, our focus must be on our students, end-of-year activities and school operations. We will not conduct any additional media interviews regarding this issue. Members of the media wishing to receive a copy of the District media release regarding the revisions may contact the Communications Department at 847-327-7185.



But I couldn't find the Code of Conduct (even the pre-revised one) anywhere on the District 128 website. (Some might argue that the district's behavior in not making this available to students is inappropriate.)

I was able to find a small quote from the Code of Conduct:


[M]aintaining or being identified on a blog site which depicts illegal or inappropriate behavior will be considered a violation of this code.


At this point it's not known whether the code goes into more detail regarding the definition of "inappropriate." But here's what other school administrators think:


Meredyth Cole, assistant head of school at Madeira...warned that personal information posted online can also be read by college admissions officers and future employers....

Ellis Turner, associate head of school at Sidwell, said that the issue came to the attention of administrators only recently, when they became aware of "inappropriate material that was being posted on Facebook."

Sidwell's Upper School recently sent letters home to parents and held a student assembly and a parent meeting on the dangers of students posting too much -- or unwise -- information about themselves....

Steve Jones, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago...cited a recent case in which three middle-school students in the Chicago area were suspended after posting obscene and threatening remarks about a teacher on a Web log. The school community was split over the action....

Tim Trautman, head of Silver Spring's Barrie School, would not give specifics about the reason his school recently asked a student to leave. He said rules forbid students to "use technology at Barrie and elsewhere that defames individual members of any community."

In November, after a student at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring posted derogatory comments about black students on a blog, printouts of the comments were circulated on campus. The student eventually left; administrators would not say whether disciplinary action was taken.



While I couldn't find any code of conduct at the District 128 website, I was able to find a section about Internet safety. Here's part of the introduction:


What these teens and parents are also now discovering is that the personal information they’re posting is creating a smorgasbord for online sexual predators along with a shadow résumé that may interfere with their acceptance to college, application for scholarship, or finding employment. In some cases publicized nationally, photos and comments about inappropriate student behavior off-campus are also getting teens in trouble at school. Community High School District 128 is concerned about these potentially unsafe activities and wants to proactively partner with parents on an education program that provides both our parents and students some basic information on how to use the Internet safely.


The district follows this with six safe practices for teens:


#1 Disguise yourself!...
#2 Don't post photos of yourself or your friends!...
#3 Password protect your site....
#4 Never say anything negative about anyone on your website!...
#5 Remember that whatever you post online is public information, not private....
#6 Report online stalking or harassment!...



If anything, this makes the definition of "inappropriate" even muddier. Is it a violation of the District 128 code of conduct to post one's real name on a web page? Is it a violation to post a picture? Is it a violation if you say something negative about someone? Granted that now I'm reading assumptions into this whole thing, but the whole meaning of inappropriate needs to be clarified.

However, it should be noted that even if the school district is prevented from monitoring the activities of Libertyville High School students, that doesn't prevent anyone else from doing so. It's perfectly legal and perfectly Constitutional to laugh at absolutely anyone who does stupid stuff.

So here's what one 18 year old said:


"take off your blouse and your OONDAPANTS!!"
Female
18 years old
LIBERTYVILLE, ILLINOIS
United States

...i'll be a freshman at southern illinois university in carbondale next fall. i work at an after-school club because i love kids. that is why i hope to become an elementary teacher one day....

...i no longer drink alcohol because i've realized being wasted is wasted time. a lot of people probably thought they'd never hear me say that. actually i used to party a little too hard in highschool, which taught me a lot in the end....

...i can't wait to get out of libertyville and live where people arn't so consumed with themselves.. :D



Frankly, I don't think her future principal is going to care if she was drinking at age 17. And any employer with half a brain probably realizes that quotes don't mean actualities. But, as Robert Plant, once said, "ooooh, it makes me wonder":


uh oh...tequila drinking

"love. live. laugh. & party as hard as you can!"

Female
17 years old
LIBERTYVILLE, ILLINOIS
United States

...im a junior. i go to lhs where everything is everyones business. i hate school. i love to party, maybe i love to party a little too much.



So I guess the libertarian message to Libertyville High students - get as wasted as you want, have as many abortions as you want - just don't do it on school property. Thank you and good night.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Comments:
I think your last sentence sums it up. Come on, people, use some common sense! So a kid writes what a big ass the librarian has or some such nonsense. No one gives a flying fig.

I read in one of the earlier news reports that the school administrators would only be looking at someone's blog if tipped off by another student, teacher, parent, or community member that there was inappropriate content on someone's blog. Yes, we can talk all night about what is and isn't "appropriate" and who gets to define that. I trust that most adults will use their heads. So the captain of the football team details his sexual exploits on MySpace. Big deal. But if the guy is listing girls' names, that's a problem. The school has a right to step in and protect the identity and security of those girls. Don't tell me it's up to the parents. Chances are, if the parents were involved in their daughters' lives, they wouldn't be screwing the captain of the football team under the bleachers in the first place.

Man, I sound old.
 
After the frog dissection incident, do you feel parental?
 
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