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IL School District to Monitor Student Blogs 438

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the teaching-grammar-and-ethics dept.
tinkertim writes "According to a Yahoo article, a school district in Libertyville, IL will be holding students accountable for illegal actions discussed in their MySpace blogs even if such actions in no way involved the school or another student. A spokesperson for the school district was quoted as saying: '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.' Supposedly, no direct monitoring or snooping will be done unless the school receives a report from a concerned parent, community member or other student."
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IL School District to Monitor Student Blogs

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  • by linvir (970218) * on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:49PM (#15406168)
    Important context missing from summary: students have to submit to this as a pledge, and it's compulsory for all students wishing to participate in extra curricular activities. It's no less ridiculous for that, but it's still an important detail because it's not as generalised as it sounds here on Slashdot. Back to the flaming...
    The concept that searching a blog site is an invasion of privacy is almost an oxymoron
    Well, congratulations Captain Obvious, you've successfully defended yourself against a point that nobody had made. Now if you could just deal with the concern that the school district is overstepping its bounds and attempting to exercise too much control over kids' lives, we might have some sort of discussion on our hands.

    The ambiguity of the criteria doesn't help either: 'Illegal' is one thing, but 'inappropriate' is another one they use (though not mentioned in the summary) and more or less gives them a license to discipline (oh, but only after some undisclosable anonymous source expresses 'concern', of course). I'm willing to bet that illegal means mostly slander against school employees, and inappropriate is 'anything else we don't like and can use as dirt against a kid we want to get rid of'.

    "I don't think they need to police what students are doing online," she said. "That's my job."
    Given that most of the time, it's parental apathy being compensated for by the authorities, it's very telling that in this case parents are demanding to be given back their control.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      So if my kid has something to say about his school, I'll help him write it and I'll post it on MY blog. Then the school can deal with me, instead of picking on a kid.
    • more or less gives them a license to discipline (oh, but only after some undisclosable anonymous source expresses 'concern', of course)

      I know how this feels first hand. In the 6th grade my parents sent me and my two younger sisters to a private school. The Dean was pretty strict, but we were getting a good education, a lot of individual teacher attention and really exceeding in our studies. The second year the Dean decided that we (the students, not just me and my siblings) were rebels that needed to be

  • The real oxymoron (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChrisBennett (18205) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:50PM (#15406173)
    Libertyville? Yeah- right.
  • by jbrader (697703) <stillnotpynchon@gmail.com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:51PM (#15406176)
    If we're going to become a 1984 style police state it makes sence to start with the young people.
    • I wanted to mod your message up but there's no "+1 Frighteningly Insightful"...
    • I expect that it will be more in line with A Brave New World. There is no need for oppressive covert survielence and authoritarian control. The people will hand the government power on a plate, if it will allow them to be less responsible. Heck, with Prozac, and the like we pretty much have the Soma requirement from ABNW nailed. The schools have been in place for a long enough time, now all we need to do is centralize breeding and we're set.
      • now all we need to do is centralize breeding and we're set.

        In case you hadn't noticed, we get bred, whether we're in season or not, by our all omnipotent government everytime we walk out the door into the real world. The only real difference between us and a prostitute is that the prostitute usually gets paid for it, whereas we all pay for the 'priviledge' of getting bred.

        Minor semantics difference, usually lost in the rest of the crowd noise.

        --
        Cheers, Gene
    • by morcheeba (260908) * on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:19PM (#15406300) Journal
      ... and the people who can't spell, too. Their always the first up against the whall ;-)
    • The School for life , or life for the School.
      When you have control within you own establishment then fair enough, but outside of that a person is just that a person.
      Now it is understandable in discriminating against police officers who commit crime, but a student is different.
      You have little choice about school and schooling is very important. But the influence of the school should never reach beyond it's walls.
      Beyond the walls of the School it is the job of the parents to care for their children an
  • by quincunx55555 (969721) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:52PM (#15406180)
    ...of law enforcement. Shall we have our police officers teaching and managing our schools now? I can't even fathom why a school would want to take on this responsibility. I bet that if this keeps up, a few years down the road parents are going to be yelling at the schools for not catching Jonny's 'illegal' blog. What a mess. Now only if the parents would make the same committment!
    • Well lets make it pointless now. We can find thier blogs, view the content to make sure nothign would get them into trouble, then complain to the administration so much that it takes more time to enforce the policy then it is worth. Worst case scenario, Something happens to a student like getting suspended and then thier parrents review the posts to find nothing wrong and sue. Better yet, the ACLU or some oher organization comes around and sues for them. Loosing a suite like this should give enough fear to
    • I can't even fathom why a school would want to take on this responsibility. I bet that if this keeps up, a few years down the road parents are going to be yelling at the schools for not catching Jonny's 'illegal' blog.

      And not only that, but imagine if a kid makes a big deal on MySpace about being, oh I don't know, Jewish, and then they also complain about the school and talk about dope. If the school is admitting that it's using info on MySpace to discipline kids, won't they open themselves to possible di

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:53PM (#15406183)
    ...they have increased the likelihood that people will try to hold them responsible, and more likely that they will be succesful in doing so. Stupid move. Maybe they should spend more effort dealing with the things they are already, by law, clearly responsible for, and tell people that won't to report apparently illegal things that have nothing to do with the school that they infer from someone's blog postings to call the appropriate law enforcement agency.

    Because school districts aren't equipped or funded to act as general law enforcement agencies, and have more than enough demands on their resources doing what they are supposed to do, without their staff trying to live out their "Internet cop" fantasies.
  • by way2trivial (601132) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:55PM (#15406189) Homepage Journal
    let's say I have a blog, and claim I stole a diamond ring from my neighbor in my blog.

    what exactly is the school going to do, that they are going to hold me accountable for what I write in my blog..

    arrest me? press charges as an educatorial influence?

    • A wild guess... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:32PM (#15406339) Journal
      Here's a wild guess:

      Kick you off the teams (and other extra activities that look good on college admission forms). Kick you out of AP classes. Suspend or expell you. Put black marks in your record (and otherwise interfere with earning decent grades) that will blight your carreer and reduce your earning and marriage prospects for the rest of your life.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is the state of IL and we have found a problem with your comment. You have stolen a diamond ring. You will not have to go to jail. You will get as follows:

                1. Give the diamond ring to me untill after class.
                2. 5-Day Suspention.
                3. Teacher-Parent Conference.

      Please give this note to your parents.

      IL SlashSchool
      Mike Pricipal, Principal
    • This might actually be a nice way to completely invalidate this crap, if you don't mind a bumpy ride for a while. Essentially they're acting as the police, jury, and executioner if they decide, without any evidence or verification that what you've said is true. This could put them in a very embarassing legal jam.
  • by overshoot (39700) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:56PM (#15406192)
    The first student to post totally fictitious accounts of something "objectionable" will be up.

    Should be no end of fun for the kids, and I rather suspect that the first several lawyers' fees will end up paid by the district too.

    • Considering that probaly almost half the thirteen year old Tammies on 13-yo IRC chat channels are really Big-assed-Burt, truck driver from IL, how long before BaB starts making up ficticious blogs that get real Tammies into trouble.
    • The first student to post totally fictitious accounts of something "objectionable" will be up.

      Should be no end of fun for the kids, and I rather suspect that the first several lawyers' fees will end up paid by the district too.

      Indeed... If I was in the school district, I would start a blog, just so I could tell the story of how I used my army of robots to nuke New Tokyo, or something. Then, I would post that I shot Kennedy using my time machine. Then, I would post that I had a glass of wine. I'd love to

  • by rpdillon (715137) * on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:58PM (#15406200) Homepage
    This is yet another step towards government-as-parent. Since when is it the school's job (as a government funded organization) to police students' activities when they are not on school property, and are not engaged in activities related to the school? Further, just because someone writes something in a blog does not mean it is true. Keywords: "Waste of resources".

    This is a perversion of what schools should actually be focusing on. Why not focus on teaching students how to perform basic life skills, like manage credit, get a bank account, balance a checkbook, and spot shady deals when trying to buy a car? At least that would fall under "education", not "parenting" (although parents should be teaching their children all that as well).
    • Interesting linking this move to parenting. I guess this whole mess reinforces the idea of high school being little more than daycare. Instead of focusing on the teaching, they're working to extend their babysitting services. Is this like the beaurocratic equivalent of featuritis? Or is it some sort of megalomania that afflicts every single civil servant who gets a sniff of power?
    • by Zork the Almighty (599344) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:07PM (#15406241) Journal
      Because for many people schools aren't about education, they are about control. Obviously not everybody feels this way, but apparently there are enough that do for us to see these news stories every week. Companies, churches, and the government demonstrate exactly the same tendencies, but they are kept in check by adults who won't put up with that crap. Adolescents are in a worse position, and are not used to asserting their rights. Maybe it's a form of education after all.
      • Because for many people schools aren't about education, they are about control.

        Public schools ALWAYS WERE about control - specifically, about indoctrinating children with a government/elite - prescribed culture.

        Which amounts to teaching the next generation to be good serfs.

        Look at the original debates on setting up and funding public schools. Actually educating the kids was hardly ever mentioned. The big push was to indoctrinate them with a common culture.

        (Of course nowdays it's to indoctrinate them with
  • How come the School District is not spending their time working to improving grades?

    With an administration that is concerned about what students are saying about them, it is like the staff themselves never left high school!

  • Impersonation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by assassinator42 (844848) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:00PM (#15406206)
    What if someone didn't like a particular student, created a blog claiming to be them, and posted illegal or inappropriate material? The same thing goes for employers checking out potential employees. There's no way to verify people are who they say they are on these sites.
  • I wouldn't mind if the following were also true:
    • Teachers and administrative staff were held to the same accountability
    • There was proper oversight and an established appeals process just in case one creative "student" were to, for example, frame another student or administrator.

    I know that if this kind of thing went on at a school I attended, for some reason all the administrators BSDM sites would be "leaked" to the rest of the school.
  • One: It's very true, and a good lesson for the students, that what the identifying information they put online could come back to haunt them. And it's certainly a lesson better learned early in life, rather than later.

    Two: How is it that we've reached a point where the schools are raising our kids for us? What happens outside of school is none of their business unless it indicates a threat to the other students. Violent crime, sure.

    But more likely, this is going to be used to ferret out the pot smokers a
  • Let the public schools do what they please. If they do it well, they'll thrive. If they do it poorly, charter schools will eat them alive. Meanwhile, whatever happened to free speech, at ay cost?
    • If they do it poorly, charter schools will eat them alive.

      There is just one problem with your theory. Charter schools are public schools (just without much of the bureaucracy). The parent school district of the charter schools can cut them loose if they don't meet their "standards." In other words, if charter schools become too numerous, the leaders over the regular schools would fight tooth and nail for them to stop gaining too much power.

      Our school system needs to change.

  • by thecitruskid (468923) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:01PM (#15406217)
    "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."

    Clearly this school is just preparing its students for the America of tomorrow.
  • Now wait a minute. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Puls4r (724907) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:02PM (#15406219)
    Last time I checked, we have agencies for handling illegal activities. I believe they are called "police".....

    Since when does a school have the time or resources to monitor this type of thing? Sure, sure, if they get notified and see it on the web page, report it to be the police. But last time I checked every person in this country is allowed "Due Process" before being sentenced for any type of crime, and last time I checked it is NOT the schools that are allowed to levy a sentence prior to a court of law.

    Overstepping their bounds? WAY overstepping their bounds my friends.
  • Well duh! Of course privacy isn't an issue. Who said it was? The problem is that a *school* is talking about holding kids responsible for these things said there. Pardon me, but isn't that just a little bit out of their jurisdiction? Let them monitor the blogs all they want. But the minute they try to punish students for things on the blog, well, that is just going too far. If the information is so incriminating, let the police handle it. I used to live just a couple miles from Liberyville, IL and I know th
  • If they find a student talking about drinking or smoking etc on a blog, they school's authority to do anything about it is limited to possible athletic code violations (which doesnt matter to most students anyways). School's attempt to extend their authority, but in reality they can be told no, and no punishment will be brought down that will stand. If I blogged about something and was called in, (everything happening outside of school), I would tell them that, and then I would leave. If they wanted to pr
  • If someone actually does post information about an illegal activity they've parttaken in, I mean seriously, they have none but themselves to blame.

    Not only do you discuss it in a public medium, you leave records that you did. I mean, that's just stupid.
    • If someone actually does post information about an illegal activity they've parttaken in, I mean seriously, they have none but themselves to blame.
      Ah, but what if they post information about illegal activity that they haven't parttaken in?

      All sorts of possibilities there for creative writing, don't you think?

  • This is a situation which I really think falls in a gray area. Students should understand that they have no expectation of privacy on a site like MySpace. That being said, I don't think school officials should constantly monitor MySpace; that's essentially like listening to all the public conversations in the school. But I don't think that's quite what is happening. The summary and even the story title are a bit misleading. The TFA says:

    District officials won't regularly search students' sites, but will m

  • If writing about it on a blog is proof enough, then how long before descriptive stories of the school administrators doing lines of coke off of the naked breasts of underaged cheerleaders starts showing up?

    Just one budding Photoshop genius at the school, and the whole administration could end up as registered sex offenders.

    If it's good enough to 'prosecute' a student into a suspension/expulsion, shouldn't the DA consider it good enough to prosecute the administrators into jail?
  • Circling Sharks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @07:13PM (#15406276)
    ... I smell a lawsuit! ... Yeah, a big one - at least six figures ... ;)
  • Hmmmm, shouldn't the PARENTS be the ones responsible for monitoring their kids behavior after school hours?

    So, who decides what "inappropriate" behavior is?

    Most teachers think cursing is "inappropriate", but I certainly wouldn't want my kids disciplined BY THE SCHOOL for cursing. It's ridiculous to even think about.

    And, if the kids post really inappropriate stuff (like sexual activities or beatings), then the school should work through the parents and, if appropriate, the police.

    I've got 2 teens
  • Well since I hate my classmates, I think I will scan their yearbook picture, create an account as them, then ramble on about mercy killings etc... ... Wonder what will happen when this occurs.
  • So, do the kids get to have a trial where the facts are aired publicly by both parties before they are punished? This is about lack of due process, not about a lack of privacy.

    Now, I don't necessarily think that due process is needed for the school to govern behavior of students on school grounds. But I definitely think it's needed before the school can punish students for behavior that's so undisruptive to the school that the only way they can find out about it is reading a blog.

  • While this action quite reasonably offends our sense of liberty and free speech, it is certainly not unprecedented. The fact that students are forced to sign this agreement in order to participate in extracurricular activities is what makes this likely to stand up to scrutiny unless a serious public outcry arises. A choice is given, and as long as students are willing to give up the privilege of participating in extracurriculars (which are not guaranteed/forced on them, unlike education), they are free n

  • that one word is their license to censor students for whatever they please.

    In essence this government agency will apply whatever standard one of their members deems fit. If not their members then people who have influence over them. I will be especially unsurprised if they take action against negative comments about employees of the school system.

    Expect the term "hate speech" to be bandied about along with the other PC favorite "intolerance".

    If anything we can only hope that the first court to get into th
  • Okay. Here's what I see happening, putting aside the morality and legality of the issue:

    Does anyone think my name is really Khaed? It's not.

    Do they think the kids are so stupid that they won't post with screen names, like I have here? I have two or three different names I like that I use in various places. I could be talking to some /.ers in AIM and they wouldn't know I was the same person unless they recognized my way of phrasing things, because my name is so much different there. Same for my personal e-ma
  • I wonder if a parent could go after the school administrators for stalking their children online. Once the kid leaves the school, he is no longer under the authority of that school, so any school administrator monitoring that child's online actvities does seem to fall in line with stalking.
    • Re:I wonder (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zygote-IC- (512412)
      Under your logic, the officials at Columbine High School shouldn't have done anything unless the kids were drawing up the plans to stage a full-scale assault while they were in art class.

      What a child does outside of class that impacts the campus should rightfully be a concern of the district, even if its not under their direct "authority."

      If a kid on myspace -- aka the backwater of the web where HTML from 1995 is still popular -- is talking about plans to take out a group of students, or running drugs onto
      • Re:I wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sholden (12227)
        And what about when they suspend a student because the student posted to a web site that they went a party and got drunk on the weekend.
      • Re:I wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mikerm19 (809641)
        Your logic is flawed. So, if I was still in high school, but I made a Duke Nukem 3d map of my school, the school should be concerned? Well guess what, I in fact made a Duke Nukem 3d map of a layout similar to my school, you know why? Because the building layout made a good map. So not only, under your logic, would I get in trouble, probably get suspended or expelled, I would be labeled as a depressed potential murderer and have a police record. I like that. Even though I had 0 intention of actually actin
      • Re:I wonder (Score:3, Insightful)

        If a kid on myspace -- aka the backwater of the web where HTML from 1995 is still popular -- is talking about plans to take out a group of students, or running drugs onto campus to sell during lunch, then I think the district not only has a duty, but an obligation, to try and make sure neither happens.

        The district has an obligation to inform the police. Anything less than this is complicity, and anything more is taking the law into their own hands.
  • Schools have been bitching for years that they are underfunded and do not get enough state and federal aid to adequately provide education to students, but they have enough time and/or money to piss away with something pointless like this? I mean you cannot go from bitching that NCLB (No Child Left Behind, in case you are not good with acronyms) is not feasible because you do not have funds and then pull this sort of shit. At this pace I foresee my children being home-schooled, and I have been grossly opp
  • And again (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by dacarr (562277)
    I've said it before, so I'll say it again. If you don't want your information out in the open for the world to see, DON'T FUCKING PUT IT ON THE INTERNET!
    • Re:And again (Score:3, Insightful)

      by clickster (669168)
      WHOOSH!!!!

      Did you hear that? That was the sound of the point going over your head. It's not a privacy issue. The problem is that the school is punishing kids for things that they say WHEN THEY'RE NOT ON SCHOOL GROUNDS!!! As soon as that kid steps off of their property, it's none of their damned business what the kids say. And I don't give a crap whether it's just talking about extra-curricular activities or not. They are using this to coerce kids into keeping their mouths shut. Kids are learning abou
  • See yesterday's story [slashdot.org] about the same thing being done in Plainfield where they actually expelled a student over a blog post. (Obviously Plainfield IL [google.com], not Plainfield, NJ [google.com] as the story claimed.)

    So is there some prodding from the state department of education for school districts to be doing this, or is Illinois just more of a nanny state than most?

  • Blogging is one thing... hhow about expressing racist thoughts/feelings in the classroom...

    On a recent (this week or last) podcast (in English), Radio Sweden reporters told the story
    of a Swedish school that failed students who made racist statements in tnhe classroom.

    Apparently, the only course grade affected was in Sociology (or similar), or perhaps the
    Swedish school course that focusses on other cultures.

    I consider this a practical measure to curb racism (consistent with Anti-Race Hatred laws
    in other coun
  • by TekPolitik (147802) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:06PM (#15406515) Journal
    It can still be an invasion of privacy to be monitoring blogs depending on what the purpose is in doing the monitoring. Privacy is not just about secrecy - secrecy is merely one facet of privacy, and is not even the most important one. Privacy is a much broader concept and is about being left the hell alone. The monitoring in this case appears to be planned for the purpose of the school district systematically interfering in stuff that is none of their damned business, and so it can still be an invasion of privacy even though the information being monitored is publicly available.

    There's no oxymoron, but it's clear the spokesperson is a moron.

    • It can still be an invasion of privacy to be monitoring blogs depending on what the purpose is in doing the monitoring. Privacy is not just about secrecy - secrecy is merely one facet of privacy, and is not even the most important one. Privacy is a much broader concept and is about being left the hell alone. The monitoring in this case appears to be planned for the purpose of the school district systematically interfering in stuff that is none of their damned business, and so it can still be an invasion of
      • If you broadcast into the public, you have no right to privacy regarding that matter.

        You are making the same mistake the teacher did - only looking at one aspect of privacy (secrecy). It is also an invasion of privacy to interfere with others without having any particular information about them. Even Webster's shallow and incomplete definition [m-w.com] encompasses this (see 1(b), and to some extent 1(a)). You seem to be limiting your concept of privacy to the paragraph 3 of the definition, so placed because it is

  • That seems to be a major theme in today's society. You can't do that. Why? Because I don't like it.

    No one should have any say in what I do as long as I don't vioate your rights. And sorry, doing something you don't approve of does not violate your rights. You do not have a right to tell me what I can and cannot do.

    That's all this is... you can't do that because I don't like it when you do that. Who are the children in this case? The students, or the school board?

    Makes me sick.
  • What a waste (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nEoN nOoDlE (27594) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:37PM (#15406681) Homepage
    With the education system as it is now, how did anyone even think of something this inane? We don't have enough teachers to teach, yet alone enough teachers to sift through kids' blogs looking to see if they did something illegal or "inappropriate."
  • Easy Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ffakr (468921) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:50PM (#15406741) Homepage
    There is an easy solution to this if the students really find this offensive.

    Sign up for a myspace account if you don't have one. Exchange them among students. Complain about everyone elses account. Everyone ask every day if they have investigated all complaints. I think the biggest offense here from a liability standpoint would likely be the targeting of some students over others.

    I'd also suggest fun with content. It'd be fun to post extensive content on which teachers were less than competent. Nothing libelous or overly inflamatory but it'd be nice to have a post for everytime a teacher was late to class or every time an administrator picked their nose. Just stick to the facts kids. Rat out every shortcoming of the institution and force them to read it all day in and day out. I ran pretty low on the Radar in highschool but I can still think of pleny of shortcommings that they would probably not like to hear about themselves.

    I do believe that Libertyville is a farily large school so it should quickly turn into a giant morass.

    Have fun people.
  • Old News (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DisKurzion (662299) on Friday May 26, 2006 @01:53AM (#15407962)
    Here's a news flash:

    They've been doing this at my old school district for well over a year now. (South-central PA)

    My sister has had friends busted for having Xanga's, Myspace's, etc which detailed either insults directed at teachers, various parties involving drinking, or direct threats to other students (the excuse they use for this in the first place). Some have even had explusion hearings based upon what was stated on their Xanga's (although in one case... it was just the straw that broke the camel's back).

    While there are ways to protect your privacy in these communities, many people don't do it for the simple fact that they INTEDED to be found by their friends. The flaw in the social system is that nobody assumes that their parents would ever check these systems.

    The long and short of it is: If you'd get in trouble (either parentally, scholastically, or legally) for saying it to someone's face, either use a proper layer of privacy, or DON'T FREAKING WRITE IT!
  • by gelfling (6534) on Friday May 26, 2006 @06:23AM (#15408514) Homepage Journal
    I want to surrender all responsibility, rights, thought and action to the school district. Please run my life for me.

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