Blogging has become more hazardous than we originally thought. Not only can blogging get you fired from your job, it can also screw up your entry into the college of your choice and hurt your chances of getting that job in the first place. Last week, in an action that may be the first in the nation, Community High School District 128 in suburban Chicago has unanimously decided to alter their student code of conduct to include a provision that allows them to punish a student for "maintaining or being identified on a blog site which depicts illegal or inappropriate behavior", such as the popular MySpace.com. The main punishment for students who don’t toe the line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (including weekends and summer), is yanking the student from all extracurricular activities.
I certainly have no problem with a school handing down a punishment to my child for inappropriate behavior during school hours or at a school sponsored activity. I also think I could get behind a policy where if school personnel discovered "evidence" of wrongdoing outside of school that they immediately notify the parents, even though it still seems like creepy spying. But for the school to be the one to dole out draconian punishments such as removing my child’s privilege of being in band, math club, or the football team is completely unacceptable.
Most colleges, receiving a huge number more applications than open spots to fill, look at extracurricular activities in their acceptance process. To allow a school board to focus its steely "Big Brother" eye on our kids non-stop, then hand down a decision that may hamper their entry into a good university, is an incredibly egregious mistake. I don’t need the school system keeping watch over my children when they are not on school grounds, I already have someone doing that — me. No government or school board should take away my authority to issue the punishment I see fit for whatever naughty thing my son did on a Saturday night.
What I would have thought these administrators should know, since they’re around kids every day, is that teen thought processes are not the same as adults. They do not have the same common sense that comes through life experience. Which is why they take more risks, feel immortal, and don’t think through consequences. These new rules are not going to make high school students think, "Gee, I had better not do this," but rather, "I had better be more careful not to get caught."
One of the real shocking bits from the article was this:
“‘I think we are underestimating our children,’ said Mary Greenburg, the only person to stand and speak out against the changes.” (emphasis added)
I’m amazed that, by way of their silence, the parents of District 128 are endorsing this new policy. Then again, I’m not. It seems that certain members of the parenting community have always sat on high and passed judgment on those parents they deem unworthy. Sorry folks, but while you may have contempt for those that raise spoiled, unruly brats, unfortunately they have a constitutional right to do so. Don’t agree with my definition of what is acceptable behavior for my teenager? Tough shit. Because my teen went to a party they get booted out of math club? Not right. And of course it’s all well and good until their little angel screws up — as kids are inclined to do — then watch out, the lawsuits will start flying.
In my own school district, we just went through a big tax increase referendum battle with one of the key sticking points being that extracurricular activities were going to be cancelled for lack of funding. Oh, how the parents moaned and wailed. Grassroots organizations were formed, rallies held, yard signs made. "We must do this for the good of our children! These activities are a vital part of their education!" But then they turn around and are quick to support the yanking of those activities for my kid that made a bad decision outside of school? That makes no sense to me.
Commenting on a related subject, Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Neil Steinberg sums it up best:
"Parents who refuse to let their kids go outside with jam around their mouths, who take a cloth and wash their faces if need be, are good parents. But a parent who goes over and tries to wash the faces of other people’s children is misguided and more than a little scary."