Banned from Face Book by the school

A colleague spoke to me recently about an issue that they had experienced.

Is it a horrid twisted fairy-tale or a valiant attempt to save society … [resisting 50 B movie sci-fi puns]

The parent had been called to school about an ‘incident’ using Facebook. The child, a boy aged 16, had filled out his profile with his photo and named his school. The daily FB activity banter between friends was more or less typical of teenage dialogue online. Nothing insane or brain-missing to anyone who knows a teen on Facebook. More importantly – the conversation’s we not the instigator of the issue per-say.

The issue was his face was linked with the school’s name in a profile and the principal had got word of it. The child was instructed to remove it, and they did.

However, the reference still existed though search — or at least at the moment the technocrat at school searched for it in — Google.

The parent was summoned to school to explain the continued defiance. Two people in a room, neither understanding the medium and making decisions for the child based on scant knowledge.

The decision was — after lecturing the parent that ‘Universities and Employers will search for the child on FB, and he’ll find it hard to get a place/job” blah (the reason the staffer asked me about it) — the child would no longer be allowed to use FaceBook or face expulsion from year 11. In order to return to school, that had to be put in writing.

A parents and teachers, we assume some understanding and rational behavior will be brought about by the policy — and will be correctly and fairly interpreted in the best interests of all the participants.

In the case of the school boy, it sounds to almost fictional. But it’s not … there are plenty of threads about the topic in various open networks.

I struggle with the notion that we will easily give up on the routines and designs of learning embedded in centuries of practice. Much of it is there to explicitly determine social capital anyone of us will have or can have. Now we see spaces where we throw these conventions aside and get unstuck.

We are no more able to transition to a better system because of social media than birds can take on the habits of fish.

The ideal intersection is not a Cormorant, though they do fish well — but not on land. On further enquiry – our hero is making decisions and operational policy for over 250 stage 5 students and responsible for taking 200 HSC students to the next part of their lives.

Right here, right now is the spikey end of learning. Will Richardson says – “unless we are teaching them, we are not allowed to be shocked” He illustrates this with images of party-girls in MySpace. More recently he talks about Facebook being a taboo in schools.

In this tale – it is two words in a profile.

As parents and professionals do we accept this lack of understanding? Do we feel it can be mitigated by their previous experience or historical qualifications?

5 thoughts on “Banned from Face Book by the school

  1. i think this is a load of bull. the school over stepped the boudaries and the parents ignorance or unwillingness to fight this fell short. as i read the above, the was no mention of the school other than the profile, while it seems that the simple answer is to just change that section of the profile, i can’t help to ponder about how much more we are going to allow others to controll what we say or do and when will schools top being so ignorant about today’s world the the technologies that envelop it?

    sad. really sad.

  2. OK Dean, how would you respond to my little scenario? I’ve noticed that a group of sixty odd students and ex-students have formed a group using my primary school’s name and logo. No problems – it seems to be mainly kids who are at high school now or the recently graduated Year Sevens. The vast majority have protected their updates but scattered throughout these members are a number of students who fall well below Facebook’s own stated age limit of 13 years. I’ll probably point this out to these kids in the new year. But do my moral obligations end there? Do I flag them to FB? Or do I hope that an educative approach will get them to rethink misrepresenting their age within a social network? Or do I contact their parents? Or merely turn a blind eye, referring to this practice in more general terms in the classroom during 2010? Your advice and point of view is genuinely sought and appreciated.

    • Well … I would say it has to do firstly with the schools use of FB. If you are not using it, then I would think that you are dealing with copyright if anything – and it would not apply to the name of the school – though it might to a logotype possibly. The next thing is whether you have encouraged them in some way to participate (they scary-zone) – and that might fall into duty of care. More gray — as do you follow mandatory reporting? — and indeed is what you have noticed part of your job? – In the case of my tale, it begins with an action. Here you are pondering the appropriate reaction to what you are noticing. I would think that it exemplifies the need for the school executive at least to consider looking at guidelines for parents and students around social media use, and perhaps an opportunity to put something in place in which as a community you are clearly informing parents and students about the use of sites such as facebook – most of which carry a +13 rating as you say.

      It is impossible to police, and personally I don’t see this as the role of individual teachers. It irks me that on ‘official’ websites, there is a wealth of information around online safety – and yet almost no funding or staff development days allocated to it. FB is particularly good at alumni type connections, taking over from sites like Friends Re-United. Both your observation and the torrid tale highlight just how immature leadership and policy is … ask Al Upton. Currently the trend in policy (see Netbook policies) is to pass risk and responsibility to kids and parents), so I imagine that will be what the system would want to do. To what degree is the school – or you at risk from this activity … it is a discussion well worth having at conferences. I often feel Web2.0-fans are quite unaware of risks. Especially accessibility. For example: if a teacher is using a Web2.0 tool that is not accessible by a student – then it is the teacher who is actually breaking the law. … not sure if that helps.

  3. Wow, this is insane! Teachers I work with (including myself as well as members of admin) have listed our school as our place of employment. Current and former students have listed it as well. I’ve also listed the school I graduated high school from and in fact, our 10 year reunion was organised through a facebook group – this was easier than using the alumni contacts list on the school’s official website!

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