Punishment for Online Activity?

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Recently, a student in Florida was suspended from school for making a Facebook group,
about her English teacher. The group was a forum for people to discuss how much they did not like this teacher and included comments from different students about her. Even though no threatening remarks were made, the student who created the group was suspended. The student took her school to court and won a $15,000 settlement.
According to school resource officer Ryan Halsted, there is no official policy detailing how to handle situations involving Facebook and other social networks at Free State. Disciplinary action comes on a case-by-case basis. Such a response is understandable; however, we feel that the school should make students more aware of potential punishment. Not to mention it is rumored that someone on  the school staff has a Facebook account under a fake name and has access to some students’ profiles.

When setting up their Facebook page for the first time, many teens choose to have privacy settings that allow only their friends to see their profile. What many students do not know is that while their parents, whose friend request they are still ignoring, might not be able to see their information, their information is in no way private.

Conducting a simple Google search of someone’s name can bring up wall posts, pictures or anything else on the Internet that contains their name. And once something posted on Facebook is out on the Internet, it is out there for good. What even more students do not realize is that they can potentially be punished for what is said on Facebook and other social medias, even if it does happen outside of school.
Say someone’s English teacher hands out a pop quiz that he was not prepared for, or his history teacher puts questions on a test that were not on the study guide and the he becomes upset about it. Then this student goes home and writes on a friend’s wall ‘I was so mad at Mr. So-and-so I could have punched them’. Now imagine the SRO finds out about this wall post and tells the teacher, who feels genuinely threatened. The student is looking at some potentially serious consequences over a threat they most likely did not mean and had no idea would get back to the school.
Too many students at Free State are not aware that other people can see their posts even if their profiles are on private. Even more are unaware that they could be subjected to punishment by the school. There is nothing in the school handbook about Facebook or other social media. We feel that it is unfair that there is any justification for punishment without first warning the students.

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