There comes a time when one faces a dilemma that strikes at the very core of one’s existence. Alas, as with that famous prince of Denmark, the time has come for BoardBuzz to face its existential angst. USA Today reports young people are spending more and more time blogging (*gasp*) and chatting on social networking sites, and (here’s the clincher) “school administrators aren’t enthusiastic.” You see BoardBuzz’s quandary? The very electronic heart of BoardBuzz shudders to think blogging itself should be the topic of a blog. Rather like reality imitating virtual reality. BoardBuzz’s head hurts just to think about it. But, in the end we can’t deny our nature, so blogging away we go:
USA Today reports school districts are “reaching into students’ home computers, severely punishing and even expelling students for what they write on those sites.” This has opened a new electronic front on the battle between student expression and schools’ mission to teach youngsters without disruptions. The article sets out a few examples of student postings (mostly derogatory statements against teachers) to support its statement. But, what the article fails to address are the very real concerns that electronic communications add to student expression in a society that increasingly values virtual reality as much, if not more than, reality itself, or, to use virtual lingo, “real time.” For example, to teenagers and children raised on the internet and with a high degree of technology sophistication, the pressures of cyber-bullying are as real as the attacks of the proverbial school yard bully taking one’s lunch money. And, in a time where school violence and student safety are ever-pressing issues, schools would be remiss if they did not act on published statements of intended violence. BoardBuzz wonders if the same parents who told USA Today, that the school districts are “trying to do our job” instead of spending more time teaching, might feel differently if their child were victimized by a cyber bully and a school with knowledge of impending violence had done nothing to prevent it. As Paul Houston, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators says, schools are struggling to find a balance between student freedoms and safety.
So, in the end, it seems BoardBuzz has resolved its existential angst. We love blogs, and we’re all for freedom of expression. But, when it comes to students, the schools first mission is making sure the classroom environment is safe so learning can take place. And, if that means coming down on a cyber-bully or a rogue student intent on disrupting the right of other students to a safe and sound learning environment, so be it. And, there, as they say, is the rub.