Facebook: Free Speech Outweighs, Cyber Bullying, Distractions


Graphic by Timothy Yang ’11

Inklings Editorial

Graphic by Timothy Yang '11
Graphic by Timothy Yang '11

For a school district that claims to “help students acquire the attributes necessary to be successful in the… 21st century world,” the Westport Public Schools’ actions regarding Internet use is remarkably antiquated.

While the district’s reasons for prohibiting access to social networking sites like Facebook in schools are understandable, they are based upon flawed legal reasoning, and the time has come for those sites to finally be unblocked.

The district’s lawyers have long cited the legal principle of “in loco parentis” as being enough to justify blocking the sites, lest anything – note the lack of definition – happen to students who access them in school.

However, the district’s liability in any such case would be limited, and no school has ever been punished simply because something happened on its watch as a result of Facebook access, according to the Student Press Law Center.

The only possible situation that might justify legal action, as it has in some parts of the country, is when the district willfully ignores an online activity like bullying.

With an administration that has proven itself to be as capable as Staples’ in combating bullying, however, that should not be a concern.

Many students feel the school blocks social networking sites because they can be counterproductive – often shockingly so. While this is not the reason they are banned, it is undeniable they can distract students from work.

But the ability to express oneself freely and access information online, as unnecessary as it may sometimes be – though it can also serve useful purposes – trumps any non-legal concern.

If the district wants to prepare students adequately for life in a 21st century world, it needs to allow them to explore it.

Anything else would just be letting them down.