Saturday, March 19, 2011
Preventing bullying or promoting invasion of privacy and spying?
As part of the Obama administration’s on-going anti-bullying efforts, the Department of Education is threatening to sue schools which don’t monitor the Facebook postings and other electronic communications of students looking for evidence of bullying. Which is troubling, because often Facebook postings and other electronic communications take place outside of school time.
So what we’re left with is the federal government requiring school speech police to monitor student communication, even outside of school. Because parents and existing laws against harassment aren’t enough to handle this, I guess.
Education Department officials are threatening school principals with lawsuits if they fail to monitor and curb students’ lunchtime chat and evening Facebook time for expressing ideas and words that are deemed by Washington special-interest groups to be harassment of some students. …
The agency’s threats, which are delivered in a so-called “Dear Colleague” letter,” have the support of White House officials, including President Barack Obama, who held a Mar. 10 White House meeting to promote the initiative as a federal “anti-bullying” policy.
The letter says federal officials have reinterpreted the civil-rights laws that require school principals to curb physical bullying, as well as racist and sexist speech, that take place within school boundaries. Under the new interpretation, principals and their schools are legally liable if they fail to curb “harassment” of students, even if it takes place outside the school, on Facebook or in private conversation among a few youths.
“Harassing conduct may take many forms, including verbal acts and name-calling; graphic and written statements, which may include use of cell phones or the Internet… it does not have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents [but] creates a hostile environment … [which can] limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school,” according to the far-reaching letter, which was completed Oct. 26 by Russlynn Ali, who heads the agency’s civil rights office.
There are some real concerns here. For instance, what if a child feels that homosexuality is morally objectionable? Is the student in question not allowed to write about that on his/her Facebook without being accused of bullying? Do students have no free speech rights?
It seems to me that what kids are saying, and writing about online, in their non-school time is none of these school officials’ business. But, sadly, “bullying” is just the latest in a long line of “crisis” used by the government to justify grabbing more power and spending more taxpayer dollars.