Should parents alone be held responsible for the actions of their children on social networks? Should educators also become involved in surveying students’ behavior online? Are students being denied their rights to privacy? These and other questions are becoming legal issues that now require intervention from courts.
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.
Excerpt: Warily, Schools Watch Students on the Internet By Somini Sengupta, The New York Times
“For years, a school principal’s job was to make sure students were not creating a ruckus in the hallways or smoking in the bathroom. Vigilance ended at the schoolhouse gates. Now, as students complain, taunt and sometimes cry out for help on social media, educators have more opportunities to monitor students around the clock. And some schools are turning to technology to help them. Several companies offer services to filter and glean what students do on school networks; a few now offer automated tools to comb through off-campus postings for signs of danger. For school officials, this raises new questions about whether they should — or legally can — discipline children for their online outbursts.
The problem has taken on new urgency with the case of a 12-year-old Florida girl who committed suicide after classmates relentlessly bullied her online and offline. Two girls — ages 12 and 14 — who the authorities contend were her chief tormentors were arrested this month after one posted a Facebook comment about her death.
Educators find themselves needing to balance students’ free speech rights against the dangers children can get into at school and sometimes with the law because of what they say in posts on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
Courts have started to weigh in. In September, a federal appeals court in Nevada, for instance, sided with school officials who suspended a high school sophomore for threatening, through messages on Myspace, to shoot classmates. It is a concern and in some cases, a major problem for school districts, said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators which represents public school superintendents. Surveillance of students’ online speech, he said, can be cumbersome and confusing. “Is this something that a student has the right to do, or is this something that flies against the rules and regulations of a district?” Interviews with educators suggest that surveillance of students off campus is still mostly done the old-fashioned way, by relying on students to report trouble or following students on social networks…
But technology is catching on. In August, officials in Glendale, a suburb in Southern California, paid Geo Listening, a technology company, to comb through the social network posts of children in the district. The company said its service was not to pry, but to help the district, Glendale Unified, protect its students after suicides by teenagers in the area…
But when does protecting children from each other or from themselves turn into chilling free speech?
John G. Palfrey Jr., head of Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, said he favored a middle ground. He follows his students on Twitter if they follow him, for instance, but he is wary of automated tools that try to conduct what he called National Security Agency-style surveillance.
Mr. Palfrey offered an offline analogy. “We wouldn’t want to record every conversation they are having in the hallway,” he said. “The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority, but we also need for them to have the time and space to grow without feeling like we are watching their every move.
That fine line seems to be equally confounding the courts.
In the Nevada case, a 16-year-old boy bragged on Myspace about having guns at home, and threatened to kill fellow students on a particular date. He also cited the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, in which a troubled student killed 32 people. The boy ended up spending 31 days in a local jail and was suspended from school for 90 days. He then sued the district, saying his free speech rights had been violated.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the claim. It called his threats “alarming” and so specific that they presented “a real risk of significant disruption” to the school. Administrators were justified, the court ruled, for penalizing what was ostensibly off-campus speech.” Read more…
Level: Intermediate -Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.
Objective: Students will read the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through discussions, and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.
Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list any information they already know about tracking teens using social media. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.
This K-W-L chart from ReadWriteThink is a good way for students to organize their ideas.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- A school principal’s job was to make sure students were not creating a ruckus in the hallways.
- Today, students complain, taunt, and sometimes cry out for help on social media.
- Several companies offer services to filter and glean what students do on school networks.
- Surveillance of students’ online speech can be cumbersome and confusing.
- Interviews with educators suggest that surveillance of students off campus is still mostly done the old-fashioned way.
- Students mocked the effort saying officials at G.U.S.D. would not even understand the language most of the time.
- We should be monitoring G.U.S.D. instead.
- His customers include five schools, but he, too, is optimistic about market growth.
- The blog’s student founders were persuaded to add a note of caution.
- Administrators were justified, the court ruled, for penalizing what was ostensibly off-campus speech.
Directions: Students are to circle or underline the correct word or phrases from the article. This exercise reinforces students’ attention on words that have been introduced in the reading. Have them skim the article to check their responses.
- For yards/years, a school principal’s job was to make sure students were not creating a ruckus in the hallways.
- Some schools are turning/tuning to technology to help them.
- The problem has taken on new urgent/urgency.
- Courts have started to weigh/weight in.
- In September, a federal/feudal appeals court in Nevada sided with school officials.
- It is a concert/concern and in some cases, a major problem for school districts.
- Tracking/Tacking students on social media comes with its own risks.
- He briefly contended/contented with this question last year when students created a blog
- The Ninth Circus/Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the claim.
- It’s going to be more and more of leg/legal issues.
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- Today, educators lack the time to monitor students around the clock.
- Several companies offer services that survey what students do on school networks.
- A 18-year-old Florida girl committed suicide after classmates bullied her online and offline.
- Educators need to balance students’ free speech rights against the dangers children can get into at school.
- Most online users are under 15 years old.
- There are no risks in tracking students on social media.
- Geo Listening is a technology company based in Hermosa Beach, in Florida.
- Students at Glendale claimed that the officials at G.U.S.D. would not understand what was tweeted most of the time.
- The schools with the highest online users are located in California.
- The courts are becoming more involved in these types of cases with online users.
Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- A principal’s job was to make sure students were not creating a ruckus.
- Vigilance ended at the schoolhouse gates.
- Some school are turning to technology to help them.
- Several companies offer services to filter and glean what students do on school networks.
- Surveillance of students’ online speech can be cumbersome.
- Tracking students on social media come with its own risks.
- Courts has started to weigh in.
- That fine line seems to be equally confounding the courts.
- The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Reading Comprehension Check
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Have students fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson.
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
- The article states, “John G. Palfrey Jr., head of Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, said he favored a middle ground…We wouldn’t want to record every conversation they are having in the hallway. The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority, but we also need for them to have the time and space to grow without feeling like we are watching their every move.” How would you put this in your own words?
- In your opinion, are the school officials in Glendale California right in hiring Geo Listening to monitor their students? Provide reasons for your answers.
- The article discusses the case of “a 12-year-old Florida girl who committed suicide after classmates relentlessly bullied her online and offline.” In your opinion would online surveillance have helped the girl?
- How would you feel if your school monitored your social network posts?
IV. Listening Activity
Video Clip: The Best School Computer Filtering & Monitoring Solution
“School computers present new threats to students and administrators alike. Typical filtering solutions are easily bypassed… Computer misuse can lead to increased bandwidth costs, legal liabilities, wasted software licenses and learning distractions.”
While Listening Activities
Directions: Review the statements with students before the watching the video. As students listen to the video if a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- Students might be more at risk with home computers.
- According to David Jones school filters are enough to block certain material.
- There are many websites that teach children how to get around school fire walls.
- Many parents think school computers are safe.
- Some dangers children encounter online are drugs, cyberbullying, and other illegal activities.
- School computers are monitored constantly.
- ConpuGuradian monitors everything children do on the computers.
- Educators can monitor only certain children with this program.
- ConpuGuradian offers the program to schools for 30 days free of charge.
- Parents can only monitor their children when they are on the home computers.
Questions for Discussion
Directions:Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions.
- After listening to this video has your personal idea of computer protection programs changed in any way? If yes, describe in what way. If no, describe your original opinion.
- Did you agree with everything the speakers said? Discuss which comments you agreed with and which ones you tended not to agree with. Explain why.
- With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask the speakers, parents, students, and educators.
ANSWER KEY: Student surveillance in school.