I am not understanding how what students do outside of school can be used against them IN school? I understand if kids are blogging in the libraries, but what about the 1st Amendment?By Andrew L. Wang
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 23, 2006
In a move that has drawn national attention to this Lake County school district, the Community High School District 128 board unanimously passed rules changes Monday night that will hold students accountable for what they post on blogs and social-networking Web sites.
For Libertyville and Vernon Hills High Schools, the changes will mean that all students participating in extracurricular activities, including athletic teams, fine arts groups and school clubs, will have to sign a pledge agreeing that evidence of "illegal or inappropriate" behavior posted on the Internet could be grounds for disciplinary action.
Officials of District 128, which includes the two schools, said about 80 percent of the district's 3,200 students participate in one or more extracurricular activities.
Associate Supt. Prentiss Lea said the changes are part of an effort to get the district community more knowledgeable about the growing Internet blog phenomenon and more aware of the pitfalls of such sites as MySpace.com.
"By adding the blog sites [to the student codes of conduct], we wanted to raise discussions on the issue," he said. "We have taken the first steps to starting that conversation."
Word of the changes had stirred discussion in the district among parents and students.
Some contend that the new codes of conduct will reinforce that students are accountable for the information they post online. But others, including one mother who spoke at the meeting, argue that monitoring students' online postings is an invasion of privacy.
Lake Bluff resident Mary Greenberg, the only person to speak during the public comment period, told officials that the district is overstepping its bounds.
As parents, "we have to watch what they're doing," said Greenberg, who has a son at Libertyville High. "I don't think they need to police what students are doing online. That's my job."
District officials will not regularly surf students' sites for rules violations, officials said. But they will monitor them if they get some indication--specifically, a tip from another student, a parent or a community member--pointing them in that direction.
School administrators would treat incriminating information found on the Web the same as they would any other evidence of wrongdoing, as pieces of a larger investigation into the offending behavior.
The new pledge will be used in all activities for the next school year, including those that start over the coming summer break, Lea said.
In the pledge, which both students and their parents must sign, the students agree that they won't use alcohol, tobacco or drugs or "exhibit gross misconduct or behavior/citizenship that is considered detrimental to his/her team or school."
The code of conduct states that "maintaining or being identified on a blog site which depicts illegal or inappropriate behavior will be considered a violation of this code."