Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Freedom of Speech? (re:folks behaving badly)

Posted by bsflag2007 on Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Well, it seems I hit a nerve when I (partly in jest) suggested an internet site to post video of people behaving badly.

We seem to be a nation of extremes lately — even otherwise “normal” people seem to be unable to distinguish between reasonable and “taken to the absurd conclusion”. But then, I can see why.

Do you remember the girls videotaped beating up a younger girl? They were not only violent bullies – but stupid enough to post the video. Voila, “proof” of the crime.

Students video a teacher cursing at students in class or other students performing lewd dance moves in a class with a substitute – and post them. Proof of bad behavior — someone will be punished…. but whom?

The cursing teacher or the disruptive students? NO.

The kids who videotaped the incidents and posted them are the ones in trouble – suspended from school, and in some cases facing charges from authorities.

Most schools have rules against kids bringing cameras to school, and of course there are rules about cellphones, so images taken on cellphone cameras are also problematic. Some schools have rules against audio-recording devices as well —- and most seem more concerned with the internet posting than with the means of recording. We are apparently very concerned about “unauthorized” documentation of what goes on at school.

The common theme is schools struggling to live up to a motto of “what happens at school stays at school”.

In fact – check out the National School Boards Association web site for an eye-opener for what school boards/school systems are concerned about – and how they are being advised to approach this issue.

Our HCPSS/BOE has been working on the general issue of bullying, and the more technical “cyber-bullying” —- though more work needs to be done, the heart is in the right place. School should be a “safe and nurturing” place. Though I think they are supposed to be safe and nurturing for the kids first – I agree the adults should be safe and respected too.

Why is the possibility of having one’s actions broadcast such a threat to teachers and administrators?

Certainly the same privacy concerns which would have overriding control in any part of life should prevail — third parties secretly recording others – recording obviously private moments — are just wrong. But isn’t teaching a class a public event?

How to deal with web sites and posts that are bullying in nature, or libelous (as in untrue/lying and mean) is one thing.

But how to deal with recordings of events that are true, accurate, and still embarrassing —- especially to the adults — is another.

I am rather torn. I would be interested in hearing how HoCoMD readers feel about regulations which prohibit recording of public performances by teachers – and the broadcast of such actions.

For the record – I have been very displeased by images of my own child posted to the internet by her friends – and have required her to request the friends remove her from their sites. I would not be happy to see either of my children broadcast during their school day – particularly in a way that might cause them embarrassment.

On the other hand — when the kids come home and tell a wild story about a teacher behaving badly, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to “see for yourself”?

Cindy Vaillancourt

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