Schools: Stay Out of MySpace (and My Son's)!
I refuse to be ruled by fear. And I'm tired of giving up every ounce of my privacy—and my fun!—because of somebody else's paranoia ... even my school district's.
My son's high school and my daughter's middle school have a strict rule that no on-campus computers can be used to log on to MySpace or Facebook or Friendster or any similar site. That's perfectly fine with me; the schools should have complete control over the use of their own equipment. But now I'm told, by none other than the president of the PTA, that the assistant principal of the school is now systematically going through the school's enrollment and searching for any MySpace, Facebook, etc., pages the students may have made and reading them. If he sees anything he doesn't like, or that refers to the school, he's informing parents, or punishing students for infractions "confessed" online, and even suspending students from extracurricular events or team sports!
What the hell business is it of his to go looking for this information? Does he just assume that the kids are telling the truth on these Web sites? And even if they are, have they somehow given permission to the school district to investigate them like this? I can't believe my tax dollars are being spent not on school security or improving education or buying better textbooks, but on snooping around in children's blogs so they can find something to prosecute.
I have heard all the arguments about "expectations of privacy" and suffered through all the metaphors about Columbine and finding suicide notes and blah blah blah. That's not what's going on here. What's going on is finding out that some kid who's on the junior varsity football team just tried his first beer, or that Johnny knows who TP'd the gym last week, or that everybody hates the ninth grade math teacher and wishes she was dead. This stuff is no different than the things that were said and done when I—and Mr. Assistant Principal, for that matter—were in school, long, long ago. And I would have felt the same outrage then if I'd found out the assistant principal was hiding in the next stall over in the girls' bathroom, or that the cafeteria had been bugged. Expectation of privacy? How about just common decency ... and common sense?
I look at my son's MySpace page about once a week; he's smart enough to know not to put anything up there that he wouldn't want me to see, so his secrets remain his secrets. And any kid who does otherwise is begging to get caught anyway, which points out a whole different problem. But truly: This school district isn't preventing another Columbine here. They're just building up a tiny, stupid version of 1939 Germany.