Can a school administration regulate what students say on social media during non-school hours?
That is what several South Lakes High School students are asking after they were reprimanded for their tweets recently, the South Lakes Sentinel reports. The tweets were sent when they were not in school.
The Sentinel reports the school's position that it is legally entrusted with the safety of all students in and out of school. However, some students believe that they have their right to freedom of speech, particularly during the weekend.
Seniors Mitch Dempster, Brian Kraus and Sam Campbell, along with junior Rachel Berman, were recently called into the school office for their tweets or their inclusion in other student’s controversial tweets.
“I think it’s against my rights and it’s unfair, Campbell told the school paper. “It has affected me physically and mentally.”
According to sources familiar with the situation, several of the students were visiting an older sibling at college. There was a picture that included a someone - it was not clear who or even if it was one of the students in question - holding a beer.
This was posted on social media, and someone told school authorities. A disciplinary hearing was held, the source said. Varsity soccer players Dempster and Kraus received a two-week suspension from games.
School security staff told the Sentinel the social media policy is outlined in the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook.
SRRH's section on Internet Safety and Security outlines the extent of the administrations’ capability to take action to search and punish students for their activities on the Internet. The language is somewhat vague in regard to social media and does not explain the exact parameters of the school’s jurisdiction over student’s online web pages and interactions.
Principal Bruce Butler says school personnel does not constantly monitor social media. He told the Sentinel in the case of these students, concerns were pointed out by non staff members.