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Should schools monitor students’ social media? 

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno – The Sentry

It is a breach of Privacy

Opinion by Samantha Register

With the increase of reported shootings in American schools, administrators are seeking out new and innovative ways of preventing gun violence. Because many high school students today are active on social media, school districts have been purchasing technology to monitor their online accounts. 

However, critics of this technology argue that it hasn’t prevented any known incidences of violence. Furthermore, districts have been using this technology to punish students for posts that administrators deem inappropriate.

Some residents expressed concerns that schools are disproportionally targeting students of color. According to The Washington Post, in 2014, one Alabama school district expelled 14 students based on their social media posts in one year. One of these expelled students, Auseel Yousefi, who believes school officials overreacted to an inside joke he posted on Twitter, asserts that students have a right to express themselves as they choose outside of schools. 

Additionally, The New York Times spoke with a student who claimed school administrators regularly asked students to take down social media posts that reflected badly on the school. Ultimately, it should be the parents who have the right to monitor what their children say outside of school. It is inappropriate for administrators to assert their authority over students outside the campus.

Some school districts have claimed that using monitoring services has helped identify students who were contemplating self-harm. However, schools have not cited any instances of this technology helping to identify students planning these acts of violence, citing confidentiality agreements.

Additionally, Mark Pompano, a security director of a Connecticut school district, told The New York Times that personal tips from students themselves have been more effective in identifying threats. Pompano said his district used Social Sentinel for a few months before discontinuing the service after it failed to identify any threats.

The increasing rates of gun violence in schools indicates that administrators and teachers should work to build trust with their students. Monitoring students outside of school hours only seems to be generating more hostility between students and administrators.

They need a system for safety considered

Opinion by Tara Perticone

Schools that purchase monitoring programs to check their students’ social media in an attempt to help keep violence at bay is a useful tool in preventing future disturbances.

What someone puts on their social media is important and can hurt their standings in their school or even their career. Many people have suffered for what they put on social media, some to the extent of being fired from their jobs. For students, it can mean being expelled for what they post—or worse.

As for the unfortunate targeting of students of color, this isn’t just from the monitoring program. Inequality in American schools is still prevalent. The Civil Rights Data Collection surveyed more than 96,000 schools for the 2015-2016 school year and found that those of color face harsher punishment and are more likely to be referred to law enforcement than their white counterparts. 

The monitoring systems could also prevent self-harm, which is still an important factor. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Signs of suicide can be seen through social media and the ways that people interact online. For example, with the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, people knew that the offender was troubled with something. According to The Los Angeles Times, the offender had posed with guns on his social media and commented on YouTube videos about being a school shooter. Both of which, would have been flagged with the monitoring program.

While my opponent might argue that the monitoring systems are a breach of privacy, students always have the option to make their social media feeds private. Besides, it’s not like administrators are going through the accounts one-by-one. Monitoring programs are solely used to check for concerning content. So if a student doesn’t post anything that needs to be worried about, they’re fine.

The schools only have the safety of everyone in mind. The monitoring programs are there to attempt to fight the problem of students self-harming and hurting others. Trying to prevent acts of violence shouldn’t be condemned. 

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