School bullies

Here is a story about a school district that is being sued for punishing students based on information gleaned from Facebook after demanding the students login credentials:

In what may be the latest example, a suit was filed in Mississippi that alleges a school official—more specifically a teacher acting in her capacity as a cheerleading coach—demanded that members of her squad hand over their Facebook login information. According to the suit, the teacher used it to access a student’s account, which included a heated discussion of some of the cheerleading squad’s internal politics. That information was then shared widely among school administrators, which resulted in the student receiving various sanctions.

As we noted when Bozeman, Montana attempted to obtain login credentials from anyone applying for a municipal job, it’s easy for anyone to view pictures and text that a Facebook user has chosen to make public simply by signing up for an account with the service. By demanding login credentials, authorities gain access to materials that users have chosen to keep private. Whether this is done because people intend to get access to private data or because they are simply unfamiliar with how Facebook operates isn’t always obvious, and probably varies from case to case.

Here is a hint to school officials everywhere: anytime you undertake a course of action that involves demanding login credentials for a service unrelated to school activities, it will ultimately end badly for you. Although you have been granted the power by the supreme court to regular violate student’s privacy (unwisely in my opinion) there are limits. Even if the school wins ultimately wins this case the damage to its relationship with the students and parents is not worth whatever you think you are accomplishing. Which in this case seems to be punishing a student for gossiping.

Students are going to insult you behind your back. Get over it. Grow up or find another profession.

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