February 19, 2010

Pennsylvania School Allegedly Spies on Students At Home

A school in the Lower Merion School District of Pennsylvania has been accused of activating webcams on the laptops issued to students while the students were at home.  A sophomore student at the school became aware of the surveillance when he was called to the principal's office and told he had been engaging in "improper behavior" in his home.  The principal proceeded to show a photo snapped on the webcam as evidence.  A law suit has, understandably, been filed.

This case is truly shocking, and the implications are enormous.  I know of many businesses and schools that have issued laptops to students, faculty or employees, and I honestly don't want to think about the fact that this technology is available to any immoral authority figure that wants to use it.

In terms of the school itself, I think this incident points to a greater problem in the thinking of school administrators nationwide.  Many schools have leapt at the chance to use technology to further monitor and control their students, and that is crossing the line.

In an incident a few years ago, a student at a high school in West Lafayette, IN was suspended for two days because she had posted a swear-word insult about a school administrator on her private Facebook page.  Last year, a university student who dared to blog about the unfairness he saw in the administrators was suspended as well.

I admit, the line between voicing one's opinion in an online social setting and public slander must be found.  But school administrators and teachers need to recognize that they are not Big Brother.  What I, or any student, do or say or think in the privacy of my home is my business.  A person doesn't lose their rights just because they happen to be young.

So, this is a call to all parents: protect your children!  Help them stand up for their rights.  Sure, posting a swear-word on Facebook about an administrator isn't the best idea in the world.  But the page wasn't public; a parent of one of the girl's friends saw the insult and told the principal, who meted out the punishment.  This was not a case of slander, and it was none of the school's business.

As the parent in such a situation, I would talk to my child about why saying this online, and in writing, is a bad idea.  I would talk about using better words in a well-rounded argument to express my thoughtful opinion of a person, instead of throwing out a swear.  I would discuss how to deal with a difficult authority figure in a more peaceful, constructive way.

Then I would tell the school to back off and stay out of my kid's business.  What happens outside the school is my territory to deal with as the parent.  Period.

[The Philadelphia Inquirer, Geekologie]

No comments:

Post a Comment