How far into a student's life does a school's authority extend? The school can legitimately seek to govern internet usage on school time and with school equipment, just as most of our employers do. But it shouldn't have jurisdiction over what a student does on her own time. Ridiculing a teacher on the internet is no different than ridiculing a teacher in the pizza shop.
This letter to the Star from a future teacher expresses my thoughts perfectly.
As someone who is planning a teaching career at the university level, I am deeply disturbed by the encroaching powers of the school system over the Internet, as reflected in the discipline of students at Willowbrook Public School and elsewhere.
Regardless of the "inappropriateness" of students' comments on Facebook.com, the fact is that students always have and always will vent about and make fun of teachers and other authority figures, just as newspapers publish political cartoons and workers lampoon bosses. This is a typical response to a situation of power imbalance.
If teachers want to prevent students from saying potentially hurtful things about them, the solution is not to become thought police, but to hire better teachers who treat students with fairness and respect. Such teachers rarely get made fun of; even when they do, many students will stand up for them against the disgruntled few.
If you don't like what students are saying on Facebook.com, then get a Facebook account and participate in the dialogue. But administrators have no right to discipline students for online conversations that are conducted off school premises and after school hours, just as they have no right to punish them for the same conversations that have always taken place in the streets, parks, shopping malls and hockey arenas. --Jeff Denis, Toronto
It would great to see some libertarian-minded parents challenge this. Of course most parents agree with the schools, because they're more concerned with authority and discipline than with self-expression and personal freedoms. If the news stories are accurate, this is even more so in Canada than in the US; no surprise there. But I'd love to see a family stand up to this kind of authoritarian bullying.