A recent discussion on one of the academic social media groups of which I am a member threw out the question of monitoring student social media messages (k-12). I would normally have thought this was a bad idea and an invasion of privacy. Events of the past few months, however, have changed my thinking a bit and I have to now wonder if safety should not trump privacy. My posting on the group discussion:
What about the rights of the OTHER students who are bullied or those who may fall victim to the bullied student who lashes out on social media, then finds his family's gun, takes it to school, and "makes the bullies pay" for what they have done, taking some classmates and teachers along with them? Why do we always find out about the bullying and the planned attacks AFTER the tragedy? If they aren't old enough to drink and vote, their social media should be monitored to some degree. We need to step up and be teachers and parents, and stop trying to be "BBF's" to our students and our children. We've seen enough (pre-) teen suicides and mass school shootings.
When the signers of the "Bill of Rights" agreed to the First Amendment, they had zero way of foretelling the digital age. They wanted to protect the right to say what you want without fear of persecution and arrest. They certainly never meant to protect bullies who drive other students to the level of despair that they take their own lives. They also never intended to allow for a secret communication system through which students could plot to kill their teachers and their classmates. We can no longer tolerate the deaths of so many innocent victims. Let's recognize that the First Amendment was never intended to be a shield behind which communication regarding doing evil can be protected. Bullying and planning murders through cyberspace communication should not be considered to fall under the protection of that amendment and allowing students to use cyberspace for those purposes is an ethical issue that must be addressed. If we can stop bullying and murders from occurring, do we not have the obligation to do so?
Those students and teachers who are NOT bullies or who are NOT planning to blow up the school or steal their family gun to kill other students and teachers a major right, as well...the right to "LIfe, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."