Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Geist on Facebook (in the Toronto Star)

I agree with most of Micheal Geist's Toronto Star article; however, I have to quibble with the point concerning the students being suspended. I think the point of their suspension was that their "conversation" was not out of earshot, and what a better time to let them know in life that on-line documents can easily be made public, unlike conversations (unless they are recorded). Also, we do not know the full extent of these students' school files, so that leaves the reason for their suspensions open to some speculation. My point is that all K-12 schools and universities have Student Codes of Conduct, and one of the key components is that students can not make their school look bad.

When I was in high school, I certainly remember students being suspended for things they said in conversations, especially if the school administration was in earshot. I can't see how this is any different, or how it should be a protected part of free speech, especially when education, in many ways, aims to foster civilized and respectful cultural behaviour acceptable for life and success beyond the walls of the institution. In this instance, a warning and an apology might have sufficed, but really the suspension is not something out of line with previous practices given that the students were on a network with the schools name on it. In fact, I can’t think of a better way for students to learn this lesson en masse than a harsh penalty being made to ensure that they understand what the limits and boundaries are of privacy, and also how principles are used to ensure a safe, secure, open and inclusive learning environment.

A story on this issue can be found here:

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