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When School’s and Facebook Privacy Collide

It’s not exactly breaking news that Facebook, twitter and social media in general have made a permanent place in our culture. Which is great. But, with all the exciting benefits of social media also comes a whole new crop of challenges. Especially when it comes to things like parenting, integrating social media in the workplace and of course implementing proper social media policies within our schools.

That last one is particularly important because the line between what’s ok and what’s inappropriate can sometimes be hard to see.  The responsibility of schools when it comes to monitoring social media sites is a shaky one. Yes, schools are integral in preventing and fighting cyber bullying, so they need to be watchful of what happens on social media sites. Right?

Well, this is where it gets tricky. Where is the line between monitoring a child’s online behavior and violating their privacy? Remember a few short weeks ago I wrote about a teenager who was expelled for Tweeting the F*** word? Judging by the comments of that post the general consensus seems to be that the school was way out of line in that case.

So I’m sure you guys are going to just love this.

In Illinois a 13-year-old middle-schooler was forced to let school officials browse through her private Facebook page. She’s not the only one whose Facebook page is being browsed by these school officials. She is however the only one whose mother, Pam, is speaking out against the practice

Pam’s daughter was forced to log in to Facebook by school officials so that they could go through her private messages and Facebook page. According to the school they needed to go through her page to verify the validity of rumors that were being spread about her. This way they could punish the people spreading the rumors accordingly.

So she was the victim, yet she was the one who was brought into the office and told she could not leave until she logged on to Facebook and allowed officials to go through her page.  Her mother called the school on it, but ended up dropping it for fear of making things more difficult for her daughter. “What a violation of my daughter’s privacy this whole episode was,” Her mother said. The incident took “a huge toll on my daughter, who ended up crying through most of the rest of the day and therefore missed most of her classes. She was embarrassed and very upset.”

But after hearing from her daughter that not only is the school continuing to do this to other students but that other parents are afraid to do anything about it, she decided to go public. She wrote about the whole incident on her personal blog and then had the story picked up by MSNCB.

As it turns out that isn’t the end of the story. The way I heard about the story was because her mom is actually a friend of mine on Facebook. It turns out that since going public the school has not only been harassing her daughter but going so far as to call her employer (being a public employee in an appointed position) to complain about her going public. This has now put her job in jeopardy.

All because the school was intent on violating a 13-year-old’s privacy. This is exactly the kind of behavior that can come from school administrators that keeps parents from speaking out and advocating for their children.

This is exactly why as parents, PTA members, teachers and administrators we need to seriously examine what is acceptable and what is not. Also, this is why we need to make an effort to support legislation that will help clearly protect our privacy when it comes to Facebook passwords and what we do online.

What are your thoughts on Facebook passwords and privacy laws?

4 Responses to “When School’s and Facebook Privacy Collide”

  1. paschott

    Yeah, the school was out of line here too. The harassment sounds illegal and the mom could likely get some help from ACLJ or ACLU to remind the school about that. I don't know that what the school did was illegal (not familiar with the laws), but it's not right, even if they are trying to be helpful.

    As for Facebook, it says right there in the Terms & Conditions to which you agree when you sign up that you won't let anyone else access your account or provide them your password. To do so is in violation of that agreement. There's your out for providing a password. Of course, having a 13 year old get the courage to say "no" is hard just because of the authority/age difference.

  2. Angie

    WOW! So, does the school have a policy on bullying? Because what they are doing is bullying! I recently read a story about parents trying to gain access to Facebook after their son committed suicide. Facebook would not give the parents the password or let them view the pages until ordered to by a court. So, if Facebook feels that each user's profile is private, why does the school think they are above privacy laws?

    It really angers me that other parents back down. I have seen this time and time again at our own school. The only way these types of things can be changed is by parents/people rallying together. Kudos to this mom for standing her ground! She has my support!

  3. Ann

    Yeah, that sounds like a lawsuit just waiting to happen. I'm surprised a school would do it.

    I'm wary to hear about Facebook looking to add "tweens" to the ranks of Facebook. My nieces are just about to be 8 and 10 and I don't think Facebook will be a good use of their time. Heck, it's not a good use of *my* time. 🙂

  4. Tired of the Blame Game

    Behavior that happens on or off school grounds that is detrimental to the health, wealth, safety and emotions of others( students and teachers included) is under a school’s decision in using disciplinary actions. It is unfortunate that we now living in a digital society have so many more parents wanting to uphold the disrespect and vulgarity of their own children while screaming about their children’s rights. ( Free speech are you sure, and do you really know the law say( school or otherwise ?)

    Of course parents have rights and responsibilities! They are to teach their children to be nice, and act decently. Maybe if parents went back to concentrating on this, they(the parents) wouldn’t be so concerned about privacy issues. Children and teachers interact everyday together in both positive and negative ways. Maybe its time for parents to start parenting again, show up to school, take part, stop the bullying behaviors in their own homes, and help to create climates of respect, and fair play. The fruit of children comes from the tree called parents- not the tree called school!

    Most parents don’t even show up to parent teacher conferences any more( citing we are too busy, its the schools responsibility to call us if there is an issue. They often are blaming or rely on school officials, to not only babysit their children, but raise them. (This depends on the day or the anger of just having to parent). So sad to bad your made the choice to be a parent.

    Maybe parents should be required to leave their jobs when students cannot not follow basic rules and stay home and teach their own children? Maybe students should not be allowed to spend wasted days at home in front of tv, computers, or just goofing off during suspensions, causing teachers to have to spend useless extra hours in trying to help kids get caught back up ? Maybe students should have mandated community service hours just like the courts do for juvenile delinquents? Maybe parents should have to take their kids to work, so others see how much a disruption to the school community their children are? Would embarrassment finally wake some families up? How many interventions are needed before a student has to be kicked out? Why do the few students who cause issues get to rule over the majority?

    Do you know how many hours it takes to conduct an investigation for disruptive behavior to a learning environment? Wasted time!

    A high percentage of students really just want to come to school and do what is right and feel safe. Why are there not more programs that reward kids for positive behavior instead of concentrating so much on the negative? Restorative Circles and different discipline approaches are great, but still take large amounts of time away from learning.

    Schools will forever take the blame for the unruliness and disruption to the learning of students. Teachers will always be the bad guy in the eyes of both students and parents who believe their personal rights should over shadow the rights, safety and learning of others. Teachers will still be expected to make less than football players, movie stars, and celebrities who fill our children with ideas of disrespect, vulgarity, selfishness and the easy way out, as well as taking verbal, physical and psychological abuse from parents and students.
    Parents we work with your kids everyday, spending more hours with your children than most of you- but have very few rights or protection. Where is the accountability for your actions as parents??

    Freedom of speech is not really free if it continues to be lived in the land of selfishness.

    Stop the blame game, and get back to teaching right and wrong! Your kids actions come from you!!! If your child is not reading- then read to them! If your child is not listening to you or their teacher- start listening to them! If your child is in trouble- step up to the plate- put everything aside and save your child! YOU ARE THE PARENT!!!

    Communities start with families- Those of us working with your children everyday are seeing a reflection of what happens in your home. GOOD or BAD!!!

    We need your help- not your contempt and neglect!!


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