Jon and I heard something quite interesting on NPR yesterday during "All Things Considered."
A lady called in with an ethics question. Here is the story: The high school in her community had all their students sign a pledge that said they would neither drink alcohol nor be around alcohol at parties, etc. However, these same students posted pictures of themselves at parties with alcohol on their myspace pages. The school administration found them and disciplined the students.
The question: Is this ethical?
Should school administration be allowed to discipline students based on what is posted on myspace?
Though I can see both sides of the issue, the two important things in the case in my opinion are that:
1) the students ALL signed the commitment form, giving the school the authority to control this (the argument could have been made that it is not the school's right to monitor off-campus behavior, if it were not for this). Regardless of how you feel about the school demanding that kind of behavior, the fact is that they signed.
2) the pictures were posted ONLINE. The lady on the internet used the argument that even though the internet is public, "the students don't view it that way- they view it like a locked diary." Why does what teenagers THINK matter? (I have also heard students say that they thought that in writing a paper, if they changed one word in a sentence of a book they read, it wasn't plagiarism. Regardless of what they think, that IS plagiarism, and it is wrong.) If they think that what they post online isn't visible by everyone and their pedophiliac brother, they need to be educated in it- not excused for it. (As a sidenote, myspace allows you to set your page as "private" so it can ONLY be viewed by the people you allow. Most teens look at it as a "way to meet new friends," so they don't use this feature.)
Also, take a look at the recent VT shootings- the school is being blamed for NOT monitoring what he posted online! If a high school student posted on his myspace that he was going to kill students (even off campus), would the administration have a right to take charge then? If so, what makes that any different from other harmful vices?
And if the students are posting/ commenting on myspace on school computers (which, as a former teacher, I can guarantee you happens frequently), does that make a difference?
What do you think? Is this an infringement of privacy, or did the school have grounds to suspend these students?