High School Banned Blogs for Safety Reasons
Posted on October 26, 2005An Associated Press story has more details about the Roman Catholic high school that has banned blogging both from school and from the student's homes. The high school says the blogs were banned for safety reasons and not to censor students.
It is overreaching for a school to try and restrict what teens can do from their own home but is it illegal?Students at Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta appear to be heeding a directive from the principal, the Rev. Kieran McHugh, to remove personal postings about the school or themselves from Web sites like myspace.com or xanga.com, even if they were posted from the students' home computers.
Officials with the Diocese of Paterson say the directive is a matter of safety, not censorship. But constitutional experts say the case raises interesting questions about the intersection of free speech and voluntary agreements with private institutions.
Yes, there are downsides to blogging like cyberbullying but if you want to get kids to stop blogging the worst thing you can do is to ban it. Banning just makes blogs sound more appealing and enticing -- not less. Now all the kids will want one. A better move would be to educate the parents and students about blogs and how they should and should not be used.Frank Askin, director of Rutgers University's Constitutional Law Clinic, said the case could be an interesting free speech test if someone took it to court.
"They are a private school, and they can have whatever rules they want," he said. "But students do have rights in this matter, especially in New Jersey. Under our state's constitution, private entities that exercise some kind of dominion over people have to respect their free speech rights."