Saturday, July 12, 2008

Missouri Youth Editorial Board: Build Relationships And Trust, But Stay Out Of Our Home Computers And Don't Violate Our Freedom Of Speech

The Joplin Globe

Youth view: Net lessons

July 11, 2008

— As more students turn to the Internet as a way of expressing themselves, school administrators are carefully watching what they post.

The most famous case of that in recent history happened last year at Lewis S. Mills High School in Burlington, Conn. Student Avery Doninger was punished because of an inflammatory post on her personal blog.

Venting frustration over the cancellation of a musical event, she referred to the school’s administration as “douche bags in (the) central office.” For her comment, she was prohibited from running for secretary of her class.

We feel that if checking a blog prevents an act of violence, then it’s something administrators should do. But when students are punished in school for things they do at home, that is when administrators overstep their bounds — even if a student says something derogatory about them.

The lesson for students is obvious: We should be very careful about what we post. Doninger shouldn’t have used such language, but the school’s administration shouldn’t have punished her for using her right of free speech.

Some of us are quick to write posts about a variety of things. Even private posts, which we may think are visible only to our close friends, can be accessed.

But, unless we use school-owned equipment, that does not give our school administrators the right to take any actions against us. Parents are our ultimate disciplinarians, not school administrators.

Instead of sifting through page after page on MySpace, Facebook and in the blogosphere, we would encourage administrators to build relationships of trust with students.

If we see something potentially violent on a student’s page, we will likely tell administrators all about it. If we know we can talk to administrators in confidence and respect, we can be their greatest ally in the fight for safe schools.

— The Joplin Globe’s
Youth Editorial Board

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