Should schools be able to punish students for what they post on Facebook?

The ACLU is suing a Minnesota school that disciplined a student over her posts on Facebook. School officials said the girl’s posts disrupted the learning environment. Officials at other schools are watching the case for any guidance it might give them in setting their own policies. Today’s Question: Should schools be able to punish students for what they post on Facebook?

  • Larry

    Oh my goodness, yes, yes, yes! They must be able to punish students for anything they do anywhere. My only question is, what is the best form of punishment? Auto-da-fé? Stoning? Dunking? Shunning? It’s an important question that I/m going to have to ponder.

  • Jennifer

    Punish is probably the wrong word. But there is no doubt that schools need to address some of the communication that is happening outside of the school day on social media. At the middle school where I teach, we had a distraught student and her parents come to speak to the administrators about threats of physical harm from other students that were being posted on Facebook. The administrators shared with the family what we could do at school to help ensure the student’s safety, but the reality is that we don’t have authority over what happens out in the community. So the family was also advised to report the threats to the police, which they did. I suppose this sort of incident is more clear-cut than name-calling, but it’s all part of the same phenomenon…

  • JBL

    If schools are responsible for addressing cyberbullying, they need to be able to levy consequences for online behavior. If schools can’t take action, they shouldn’t be assigned responsibility to stop cyberbullying. We can’t let this become another area where schools take the blame for a problem over which they have little control.

  • GregX

    Punish the kid – perhpas not. Notify and hold the parents legally responsible for the impact of the posts on the school environment – absolutely. CASE – It’s 1912 – your kid is running around the neighborhood threatening other students on the way to school. The school calls you up and says – Jeffrey is a jerk – and you have a duty to fix the problem for the saftey of younger kids and school. CASE its 2012 – you kid Jeffrey posts threats to other students. In addition – your kid makes obscene statements about other students, their bodies, their activities … and the school calls you up and says … “Oh we aren’t responsible – YOU are (Legaqlly) … . Fix this or you can start paying for damages. Jeffrey is on teh radar.”

  • Jawesomel

    Last I checked, Facebook is not a school program or class or function, it is not supported or promoted by the school. It does not receive nor give money to any school programs. If you use it during school you should receive discipline for it. If it is done outside of school, then it is done outside of school. If the school takes responsibility over what children write outside of school, they will crawl down a rabbit hole they can’t fight their way out of. Let the school teach the reading writing and arithmetic, let Facebook do whatever it wants……If you don’t like it, don’t be on Facebook. Is it the Principle’s responsibility to review everyone’s Facebook page each night? I don’t think so.

    39 year old male.

  • Melina

    I do not know what the answer is, however I do know that something needs to be done. Students are bullying each other on Facebook which is leading to horrible results. Last year there were student suicides related to bullying. I think a decision needs to be made. Parents should be teaching their children about Facebook and monitoring what they do on line, however many do not.

  • reggie

    We can’t punish people for being mean or stupid. We can and should hold everyone accountable for the content of what they say or post, no matter what tools they use to do so. If people make false or slanderous statements, they should be subject to penalities under existing laws. There’s nothing unique about using Facebook as a publishing platform. It’s just faster than writing a taunt on a bathroom stall wall.

  • Brad

    Sure we have the right to free speech, but there are always formal and informal positive and negative consequences. There should be rules against slander or bullying, and people should be held accountable.

  • Steve the Cynic

    The girl in this case shouldn’t complain. She got off easy by receiving disciplinary consequences from the school. Had she been an adult, she could have been sued for defamation and would then have a really hard time persuading anyone to hire her or do business with her. Folks don’t like people who say mean things about others, unless they’re running for elective office. She would have been condemned to a life of (horrors!) politics.

  • Russ Rogers

    Some students in our school district were disciplined for drinking alcohol at a party and being stupid enough to post pictures of that on facebook. The students athletics department has a zero tolerance policy in regards to alcohol. It doesn’t matter if the drinking takes place at school or at a party. And if a student is going to make that information “public” on a site like facebook, whoops, that’s their problem.

    Now, whether a student is disciplined for something on facebook depends on how much their postings relate to school or other students. I think schools NEED to have a public policy and set guidelines for Social Media, including blogs, facebook and texting.

    Students need to not only learn how to respect each other, but how to respect themselves. Because the impression that they leave of themselves on Social Media can impact their lives in ways that they might not anticipate.

  • Jim G

    Yes. Students’ Facebook postings today are subject to school discipline because they are “present” during the school day. These postings appear in real time during school hours and at school. Are you upset with another student or maybe that teacher who didn’t give you your usual A? Don’t delay, use a smart phone to humiliate, degrade, and bully and it will be posted immediately on your Facebook for all to read.

    It’s as if every student in my day had the ability to publish their own version of the school newspaper, (The Echo Chamber), with them as the star attraction. My high school has just published forgotten issues from the 1970’s on-line and I remember why I didn’t read them back in the day: only friends of the student staff ever appeared to be news worthy or photogenic. At least those student ramblings were edited by teacher advisors and bullying was not allowed.

    On the other hand if we let our bully post messages on Facebook which are not subject to disciplinary action it will be just like… (put your favorite media bully outlet here.)

  • reggie

    Russ @ 8:04,

    Those high school athletes are being punished for an illegal activity (underage drinking), not for being stupid enough to provide the evidence themselves (posting on FB). This is a great example of how we have plenty of existing laws we simply need to enforce consistently. Even teenagers will learn to moderate their behavior when they see evidence of consequences.

  • a.ferrey

    Larry. For heavens’ sake.

  • Philip

    Bring back beatings and dungeons! And put the ACLU in the cell next to these moron kids.

    Bullying is bullying, regardless of the cause, and we have completely stripped the individual of being able to defend themselves (and grow) by taking the power away from the bullied kid. They need to learn to defend themselves and punch a bully right in the nose so the blood runs. Rather, we have the “use words not fists” mentality that only permits an environment where a kid will continue to be bullied. It’s life preparation. If you run from a bully you’ll keep running your entire life.

  • Mary

    I don’t think so. I think it is the job of parents to discipline their kids outside of school. If the school officials are aware of Face Book postings that are causing problems they should contact the parents of all kids involved and discuss what the problem is and suggest a remedy. If the parents don’t step up and parent their child then the school should take it to the police so they can enforce cyber bullying laws.

  • Philip Benson

    Do as we wish others would do.

    Do we wish to be punished, or do we wish to be forgiven?

    Do we wish to be tempted to lie to avert punishment, or do we wish to be understood?

    Do we wish to be tempted to avenge our punishment or do we wish to be taught compassion?

  • Lawrence

    I know I’m in the minority, but, yes, schools should punish students for what they post on Face Book. Let’s examine some of the things students are posting right now: bullying; significant underage drug, tobacco, and alcohol use; minors in sexually engaged/conflicting positions; other students’ private/confidential information; racist and homophobic comments; teachers’ private and confidential information; plans to segregate or discriminate against each other, and so forth. This stuff on a grand scale isn’t healthy for anybody, especially MINORS, and that’s the key point here – teenage students ARE NOT ADULTS. They don’t always foresee the consequences of their actions, and since most teen disclosure is about someone OTHER THAN THEMSELVES OR THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS, teens don’t REALLY take any risks that they could ever possibly understand. It’s easy to say,”the gal I slept with was such a slut.” It’s much more different saying publicly, “I had trouble getting my condom on and I was unsure how to proceed. But she helped me relax and understand that this moment was going to be okay; that she cared about me because of who I am, not because of who she thought I was. I will always love her for that.” I would love to give parents the job of policing their own kids, but as schools are finding out, MOST PARENTS aren’t doing it; especially parents from better off families. Parents are telling their teens, “You’re 16; you’ll make mistakes! Here’s a phone and a PC. I’m out!” And these teens are left not really knowing what to do. It’s one thing to pick the wrong girlfriend. It’s another thing to put a picture of the wrong girlfriend up on Face Book doing something she wasn’t supposed to be doing. THAT’S A CRIME. If MORE PARENTS and schools supported programs like Marketing Club, Debate Team, or Young Writers’ Guild, these Face Bookers could really obtain a viable, potentially wealthy skill that they could take into the work force. But no!!!! Instead, all of the support goes to FOOTBALL, HOCKEY, BASKETBALL, AND SOCCER, leaving kids without any means of utilizing some of this Face Book Skill in a more creative and positive manner.

  • James

    No, absolutely not.

    Schools should publicly state that they are not monitoring Social Media and are not responsible for its content.

    At which point parents or other authorities can start doing their jobs.

  • Audrey Ferrey

    Larry. For heavens’ sake.

  • JasonB

    All these issues with Facebook are giving me the impression that a bizarre symbiosis is happening. Social media pages are supplanting normal interpersonal relationships so much that everything on the page is being seen as a stand-in for the actual person. Now it seems like a person’s Facebook page is capable of being defamed, bullied, punished, etc.

  • Greg

    As a middle school teacher myself, I think teachers should be able to DEAL WITH (maybe not punish) anything that happens outside of school that causes issues AT school. Unfortunately parents don’t always deal with the issues at home and they carry over and disrupt the learning environment at school. SOMEONE has to deal with the issue at some point.

  • Jack Goldman

    In a nanny state where the public school and government “own” your children, yes, the school and government own you. In a free nation where parents love their children and responsibly control and manage their kids in loving kindness, no. Get the nanny state and public school out of my life.

    The question is who owns the children. Government pushes the costs of children from birth to age 20 off on the parents. Government takes the taxes and owns the children from age 20 to age 60. After age 60 you are on your own, good luck, you are going to die.

    We are being farmed by the private secret US Federal Reserve bank, corporations, and government employees.

    I oppose the nanny state, and the liberal lala’s that want to run and micro manage all life. Get the public school out of the business of the nanny state taking over possession of our children. Let freedom ring.

  • jack goldman

    Kids are learning to deal with bullying on their own. Bring a gun to work or school, shoot all the bullies, then they are dead and no longer bullying. Problem solved. Be careful who you bully or you may end up with a bullet in the head.

    Look at 9/11. Israelis and Americans bully Palestinians and Muslims. They hit the bully in the nose at their global planning center, the Pentagon, and it’s source of bullying funding, the Global World Trade center. Punch the bully in the nose and make them bleed. Guns solve problems.

    Watch television. All problems are solved with guns or vampires biting people in the neck to suck the life blood from their life. Guns really do end problems like posting bullying on Facebook. Look at Iraq and Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, and all the world. Guns are the way to solve problems. Think twice before bullying people on Facebook or on line. It could be provoking a bullet to the head.

  • Terry

    Perhaps comment and creatively critique, never punish, if something’s a real threat, deal with it wisely.

    While you’re at it, tell the truth about the world’s most utilitarian plant, Cannabis/hemp.

    “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.” – Carl Sagan

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