Yesterday I came across a disturbing piece of news – a 16 year-old kid is being barred from participating from her graduation ceremonies because her school, St. Theresa’s College, found pictures of her posing in a bikini and drinking alcohol. Naturally my reaction was one of bewilderment and anger – as the kid was apparently on a family outing with her folks when the pictures were uploaded to her account. While her school (a Catholic school) had a morality clause appended to their student handbook that was given out at the start of the school year that forbade, and I quote (from the report of the Inquirer)”1. possession of alcoholic drinks outside the school campus 2. engaging in immoral, indecent, obscene or lewd acts 3. smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages in public places 4. apparel that exposes underwear and 5. posing and uploading pictures on the Internet that entail ample body exposure”, does that mean that the school has the authority to monitor student’s Facebook accounts and dole out punishments according to what they upload to their personal accounts?
In my opinion, this kid’s right to self expression is being trampled on by her school. I mean, I didn’t have Facebook when we were growing up, but if I did, I would have uploaded a lot of crazy stupid things that most of us do when we’re young. Like the girl above (who was not named as she was a minor) I also came from a Catholic school, and one of the ironclad rules that we had back then was that if students were ever caught doing something illegal or immoral while wearing school uniforms (which constituted misrepresenting the school) then they’d be facing some very serious consequences. What’s different in this case was that the girl wasn’t misrepresenting her school – she was on a family outing, which, the last time I checked, was not under the purview of her school. Here’s the kicker – according to her lawyer, her account was set to private and limited to only her friends, which meant to obtain the evidence against her, the school did a lot of snooping around as clearly her pictures were not for public consumption and in doing so, engaged in a gross violation of her privacy.
Should schools have a say over what students upload to their personal Facebook accounts? Hell no. Her case is akin to your employer snooping around your house, finding porn and then suddenly sacking you for having smut around your house. I’m a firm believer that whatever you do on your own, personal time is no one else’s business as long as it’s not illegal. This school is overreaching their bounds, and should immediately apologize allow the girl to march at her own graduation and should stop shoving its nose into the personal, private lives of its students outside of school.