MySpace Now A Detentionable Offense

from the well-Mr.-Sister-what-do-you-want-to-do-with-your-life? dept

Administrators of one Illinois school district say students should be “held accountable” for what they put on the internet, and are making students that participate in extracurricular activities sign a statement saying anything they put online can be grounds for disciplinary action, even if it’s not on school servers or done on school time. The Supreme Court has been pretty clear that the First Amendment doesn’t stop at a school’s gates, and there’s no question it protects students when they’re off school grounds. It looks like the district is calling the statement a “pledge” to make it look voluntary, while enforcing it only on students who participate in extracurriculars would appear to be a way to circumvent the First Amendment by tying it to some voluntary activity. It’s a good way to put a chill on students expressing themselves online, a nice nod to Big Brother and a waste of taxpayer resources — but most of all, it’s pointless. What will the threat of discipline do to actually stop these kids from whatever they’re doing that the school district doesn’t like? And if kids can circumvent school web filters with ease, it’s not hard to think they’ll be pretty successful at hiding their online activity from school administrators, too. Instead of having some employees troll MySpace looking for kids talking about cutting class or smoking in the bathroom, perhaps the resources would be better put to use on a remedial civics class for the school district and its board, with a heavy emphasis on the First Amendment.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “MySpace Now A Detentionable Offense”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Sunil (user link) says:


I really like this line, nice work Carlo! I would love for that to happen.

“Instead of having some employees troll MySpace looking for kids talking about cutting class or smoking in the bathroom, perhaps the resources would be better put to use on a remedial civics class for the school district and its board, with a heavy emphasis on the First Amendment. “

Raist says:

Re: ignorance.

Well, my 16 yr old daughter has her own page on MySpace, and whether I dislike choice words she uses, or things she says, I have always thought we should be taught to think, to be creative. What better way for them to “vent” or to be creative. I live in NC and she’s in LA, and she voluntarily gave me her web addy so that I could see a side of her that otherwise might be supressed by these amazingly intellectual people in “charge” of our school systems.. *cough*bs*cough*

It just makes the case for Home Schooling more solid I feel… at least I know what my kids would be learning, and not from some moron that wants to prohibit free speech instead of the true problems our teens and younger face.

Tim Arview says:

Re: Re: ignorance.

There is a difference between “venting” and providing evidence of disturbed behavior.

I agree that it is very possible for the school administration to abuse this and punish kids for things they haven’t even done yet. However, it also gives responsible school administrators the ammunition they need to prevent problems before they occur.

Bottom line: Anything performed proactively by authority is perceived as oppression. Anything performed reactively by authority is perceived as failure. Authority figures always lose in the public arena.

Tony says:

Re: Re: Re: ignorance.

Authority SHOULD always be a source of blame. Yes, authority SHOULD “lose out” all the time. Yes, authority acting proactively by eliminating freedoms in the name of protecting freedom is oppression; yes, authority failing is failure. Next?

Without room for improvement, authority has no purpose.

Tim Arview says:

Re: Re: Re:2 ignorance.

Of course. Then you never have to take responsibility for your own actions.

“I did something wrong” becomes “They let me do something wrong.”

“I was caught” becomes “I’m oppressed.”

And, please, tell me…what freedoms are being eliminated? Is the school board prohibiting students from having MySpace accounts? Are they saying they cannot express themselves? No, they are not. They are saying, “If you post something on the Internet, it can be used as evidence against you should you do something ‘illegal or inappropriate.'”

And, yes, I already saw your comment regarding “inappropriate.” To that, I would say you are – as one saying goes – “crying before you are spanked.”

Yes, it is vague. And purposely so, I’m sure. However, like all government entities in our nation, the school board must answer to their constituency, IF any such action were to ever take place.

In other words, don’t get caught up in the same fearmongering you’re fighting against.

Just Another Joe says:

After reading the linked article, I think the premise is a good idea, but as you said Carlo, it’s a bit pointless.

I think its good the school is taking a proactive step towards teaching students they are (and should be) responsible for their online activity; however, tying this “pledge” to extracurricular activities is rather confusing. Why should the football team need to sign a WWW agreement? This agreement should be tied to classes that use / allow internet access in the classroom, library computers, and the schools servers. If students are surfing along to blantantly offensive (read hate groups, porno, etc.) at school, then punishment might be in order, but what children do at home is the parents responsibility.

Jacob (user link) says:

Re: parents respnsibility

“what children do at home is the parents responsibility.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. This statement is key in the upbringing of children. The government (at any level, local, federal, etc) should not impose laws (rules) to tell me how to raise my child.

Examples like this push me further to look into homeschooling my child when she reaches “schooling” age.


Ben McNelly (user link) says:

Whats irritating

The worse thing here is, they will violate our rights to stop kids from posting funny jokes about the principle on myspace, but they wont make people sign pledges about not getting knocked up or doing drugs or being intoxicated…

Another good point.. Why not let them vent at myspace… then anybody can see when they are about to shoot up thier school…

Sean (user link) says:

Re: pfft

Yes but by doing this you can’t have all the pedophiles and all those ‘cool’ people on MySpace see it unless you friend them. And I bet any 14 year old girl is going to have A LOT of friend requests ;3

But this pledge bullshit? Wtf, it’s bad enough they limit our school surfing. But now they want to become the communist dictator? Some free country the USA is turning out to be…

Dam says:

Re: Re: pfft

But this pledge bullshit? Wtf, it’s bad enough they limit our school surfing. But now they want to become the communist dictator? Some free country the USA is turning out to be…

Well, junior, if you know of a country that has greater freedom, why don’t you share it with us…after you move there of course.

Mr T says:

Re: Re: Re: pfft

i can name a country more free than your supposedly democratic U S of A, its called the UK we may be barred from these things at school they dont make us sign contracts but we still find ways round. Also the whole world is turning more nanny state and stupid. Especially this we got caught doing some free running for our film in media studies just last week with a filming ban and 3 lunchtime detentions for it and one more slip up and we can’t return this year. and yes before you ask im still in school

Jon says:

Its the Constitution, stupid!

What we have here is another in a long list of people in authority treating the Constitution of the United States as an impediment to enforcing localized and self-serving agendas. These are the very people entrusted to teach our children the value of the Constitution as a foundation to freedom. They are modeling to their own students that the basis of our republic is something to avoid or circumvent if at all possible.

btw- the stupid above refers to those administrators, not you!

Dylan (user link) says:

schools have too much power

The schools have been granted too much power, they need to take a step back and stop over reaching their limits, and most of all they need to stop trying to controll a childs actions. Being 18 and haveing just left my childish phaze i know exactly how they act, you tell them not to, then they will, its as simple as that. In any case as Rick pointed out, all they have to do is change their name, or not mention thier name on their myspace. Feel free to google my name, Dylan Turnbull, the only site youll find me on is Lake Side View, thats my bands page, other than that site ( and i only have my name posted once) i NEVER mention my name . That way, unless i give someone my myspace url they wont find me, and when im searching for a job i dont need to worry about what the employers are reading about me.

billybob says:

Re: schools have too much power

>>Feel free to google my name, Dylan Turnbull, the only site youll find me on is Lake Side View

Umm – make that 2 sites counting this one…

Back to the topic – First, the school should pledge to fire all good-for-nothing tenured teachers, and pledge to stop hiring teachers based on their coaching records, and pledge to start actually *teaching* instead of just “preparing students for mandatory testing” (translation: ensuring the school gets fully funded by state & federal bullcr@p programs).


CoJeff says:


When I read this I couldn’t help but think of the movie Dazed & Confused where the quarter back refused to sign a pledge that he wouldn’t engage in extracurricular activities. Such as drinking, drugs & sex. The character refused to sign it even when the coach said if you don’t you can’t play. Of course he responded “Then I won’t play”

This pledge is so wrong on many ways. What about the kids not into extracurriculars? It seems this pledge is only going to punish the kids who do extracurricular activities at school and if you start taking kids away from those activities wouldn’t it hurt the school?

skrote says:

color me stupid

You know, this is yet another effort (YAE) by politicians to do social engineering.

Politicians cannot replace parents.

Those that try fail.

Kids with no parents (not all, but a high percentage) end up in legal trouble, suicides, abuse, drugs, etc.

Return family values of mommy, daddy, brother, sisters, with an extended support system of aunts, uncles, grandparents and whatnot, and this problem becomes moot.

Besides, what are the kids doing that is so horrible…other than being kids?

jbe says:

Re: color me stupid

i agree. people were sane back when they lived in at least the same state as their extended families, they had grandparents to pass down tradition. they were a stabalizing influence in the family. even if a child had good for nothing parents, they had extended families that would take care of them, or at least take up some of the slack. my dad is a perfect case of this, his mom died and his dad was in jail, so his extended family that live only ~50miles away took up the slack when his older sibblings couldnt.

my dad turned out fine, mabey even better off for it.

Curtis Edenfield says:

Parental Resposibility

Are we forgeting one major item here?????

Shouldn’t parents also be held accountable for thier childrens actions? The few times I got into troble when my Dad was in the Air Force, they didn’t only talk to me but they talked to my Dad!! Man did I get it then, an I learned big time not to screw around.

Both my daughters knew that if they screwed up it not only effects them but also myself an my wife. Parents need to be involed with all aspects the thier kids lives not just when they see them. Raising your kids doesn’t stop at the door or when they’re 18, it’s a life time commitment.

Aaron Friel says:

Parental Responsibility?

Yes, but there do have to be some guidelines as to what they cannot do. Telling parents that they don’t have to do something or that they are no longer responsible for something is ridiculous. But abolishing laws that prevent child abuse within the home is not a solution, it’s a problem waiting to happen.

Erik Randlov says:

This is not good

This story is complete BS in my opinion. THe kids today are going on myspace and posting half naked pics of themselves and threatening to shoot up thier school for fun. If your responsible on myspace like me it’s ok. Also, if I can’t post in my Myspace or LiveJournal because I will get detention, I wont care, I’ll do it anyways. And these kids at school getting into myspace is due to poor security on computers at the school, sure I can get around Bess. I dont choose to though, I save Myspace stuff for home. The administrators at this school need to get a grip. I am personaly pissed at these people, and they shouldnt have the right to say “you posted on myspace, your expelled or suspened.” Its BS.

Anonymous Coward says:

It WILL teach them the FIRST and BEST lesson of th

That lesson would be to learn how to maintain your anonymity, Pick a funky name and tell it to your friends & NOT the school administrators.

If you don’t share your “Real Life” personal information with strangers OR people that think they know better than you then neither one can bother you in “Real Life”.

Problem solved!

Some IT Bastard says:


Anyone see those Datelines about the guys having meet and “greet” with underaged kids???

Because kids are stupid.

Because nobody has a bigger complex with the idea that, “it’ll never happen to me.”

That’s why.

From the time a kid leaves school to the time the kid gets home, a school can be held responsible for the child’s actions. That includes what happens to a child.

Remember when you would have two kids meeting down the street behind the 76 station to fight. Well, the school is responsible if a kid ends up in the ER.

Sure there are plenty of other serious issues that more kids face, violence, drugs, drinking, sex, smoking, etc. But kids get kicked completely out of school for some of those actions. Why? All masked behind the “making it safer for other students.”

Blame parents. I am sure there is some group of PTAers that took a school board to court over some issue, and the school is not willing to go down that road again.

If there is a problem, it is always someone else’s fault. So now that school is trying make the kids responsible. Which is not a bad idea, it’s just that it is not the only idea they should have.

Myspace started for 18 and over. You could get around that with simple math, i.e. my birthdate plus 4 years makes me 18! YEAH!

Well now it is 14 and over. I think profiles of kids that are under 18 should by default, and with no ability to change it without lying, should be set to private. If a kid lies to be 18, well then the child is responsible for lying. It does not get rid of the problem, it just adds one tiny step of protection.

Tim Arview says:

Get over it...

First of all, the title of the article is misleading. Nowhere in there does it say that simply posting to MySpace will result in detention. It’s a click-grabber, but little else.

Second, for those who didn’t read the article, it says they “won’t regularly search students’ sites, but will monitor them if they get a worrisome tip from another student, a parent or a community member.” It’s a step in the right direction, IMO.

The part I don’t understand is why it’s limited to students participating in extracurricular activities. It’s almost as if the school is saying that students who participate in extracurricular activities are more likely to cause trouble than non-active students. I would think this would be the other way around.

Anyway, this rule will cause as much trouble as denying a 13-year old girl telephone privileges for a week. It might get some whining, but in the end it’s really not that big of a deal. The kids will get over it.

Tony says:

Re: Get over it...

Yeah and the government will never monitor domestic phonecalls. What? You say they aren’t….. you say.. they are only identifying the caller and the callee? FOOL.

What constitutes “inappropriate?” Whose standard? The principal? The school board? A jury of one’s peers?

Tim Arview says:

Re: Re: Get over it...

errr..I never stated my feelings regarding wiretaps.

As I said, this requires responsible administration and not some half-cocked “regime.”

And, actually, come to think of it, your reaction is somewhat like their reaction to “problem students.” The administration hasn’t actually disciplined anyone yet, and you’re already crying foul. How is that different than what they want to do?

The Internet is a public arena. And just as a political figure must answer to statements he/she makes in the public arena, so too should anyone else, regardless of age, gender, religion, or any other label.

Tony says:

Re: Re: Re: Get over it...

Tim, why should one have to wait for people to be treated unfairly to speak up and take action?

Would you want everyone to wait until someone came in and shot up your kids school to take action?

I take issue not with intervention when a kid makes Columbine-like threats but rather, who is going to decide what is inappropriate and better yet, what standard are they going to use? I suppose if its the WORLD WIDE WEB, then the standard should be the world’s standard, not Old Principal Jones in po-dunk city public school!

Scott says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Get over it...

“Tim, why should one have to wait for people to be treated unfairly to speak up and take action”

For one very good reason, any law, rule, regulation, etc. can be abused. If you start taking exception to any law made before it is enforced improperly, then all laws are a problem. You have no idea what the schools system has proposed, the media is not exactly pius or complete in their reporting.

Michael Vilain (profile) says:

Re: Get over it...

When I first read the scope of what this monitoring entailed, I didn’t really have a problem with it. I don’t know if “they” are going to be looking for massively stupid posts about the time they trashed or were doing something illegal on school grounds or elsewhere. Or if they were going to get their shorts in a twist about the posts on those working on the Gay-Straight Alliance at the school or working to get better textbooks that don’t include Creationism or mention the Fly Speghetti Monster or organizing an anti-bullying workshop at the local community center.

As to why do this with only those signed up for extracuricular activites? My gues would be that some parent who’s an attorney would get in their faces and damage their budget with litegation if they made it a requirement for attending a public school.

So, you want to be in band or play football or meet in the Chess club? Sign this please.

I wonder if this school allows the Boy Scouts to use their facilities, despite no atheists or gay kids can join.

Verum says:

Give an inch, and they'll take a mile

If we accept this blatant violation of our personal rights as “Not a big deal”, what will we accept next? Maybe having security cameras hidden in the vents overlooking our rooms at home? Maybe 24/7 contact with our ISP to see what sites we’re visiting?

The real antagonist is the people who are afraid. Myspace isn’t the reason little girls get raped, it’s just one of many mediums that allows it to happen. Little girls have been raped just because they were playing softball and a sick fuck walked by and decided that he’d kidnap her later.

Remember the first internet scare? Nobody was allowed to go in chat rooms, because PEDOPHILES were there!!! OMFG!

It seems that everytime something happens to one person, everyone else suffers because of it. When those in charge claim they’re making changes for ‘our safety’, they actually intend to use and abuse more of the power we voluntarily give them.

I think if everyone would calm down and stop being a bunch of pussies, they’d realize that statistically, the real world is a much more dangerous place than Myspace.

Tim Arview says:

Re: Give an inch, and they'll take a mile

The article did not mention MySpace. Carlo did.

The point of the rule, as I see it, is not to protect the kids who are involved in online activity. The point is to simply state, “If you threaten someone’s life online, you can be punished for it.” (Granted, not on that scale, but the principle is still the same.)

There is no violation of rights here. Where is it stated that I have the right to state publicly that I wish to commit a crime and not be held accountable when said crime is committed?

(E.g. If I were to state in this post that I was going to kill you – and you felt that this threat could be genuine based on past experiences you’ve had with me – would you say that the FBI could not use said post in its case against me? I think you would be glad to have “evidence” of the threat.)

Tony says:

Re: Re: Give an inch, and they'll take a mile

The article didn’t mention myspace?

“High school students are going to be held accountable for what they post on blogs and on social-networking Web sites such as”

“such as” implies an example. There it is.

This isn’t about some kid threatening to kill someone or threatening to cause someone harm. This is about some ultra conservative mindset wanting to outlaw dancing in his town. Everybody FOOTLOOSE!

Mike Mixer (profile) says:

I can't wait for this fight

I have 2 daughters in school and I absolutely want some bastard administrator to try to punish my kids for something like this. It has already started with

a shoe rule. It says they can only wear closed heel and toe shoes with no raised heels. after sending one to school in birks because her feet hurt I get a call from a secretary to say that she violated policy.

I asked to speak to the principal and was told I needed an appointment. I walked to the school and

sat waiting for an opening. Glory be she could see me. The first thing she does is thank me for bringing appropriate shoes. 15 minutes later she not only learned I didn’t bring shoes she also learned what it is like to argue the constitution with somebody who knows how to read the original document. She also learned that I was ready to allow my daughter to disregard every rule I considered unnecessary. She tried that lame old chestnut about trying to foster a safe environment and of course pointed out that my daughter had signed a student pledge. I told her that

she should have gone to law school because minors

can’t consent to any contract. I tell you when the time comes for this fight I hope I get an old teacher of mine, just because I blew them off doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything.

|333173|3|_||3 says:

Is this new anyway?

I’m not so sure that this is really new. If I posted on the Web that I had been Hacking/Wagging/whatever, and someone tipped off our assistant Deputy Principal, then he would believe it, and if what i wrote was a breach of the school rules, then I would get in ttrouble. (He wiould probably believe any article on the web about me too (so I hope no-one posts lies about me), but my real name is very rarekly appended to anything, even thingls like parcel dilivery chits.) At my school we have no specific rule about what we do outside of school, unless in uniform.

This rule would at least help teach students to keep temselves privatye on the web, hiding thier real details. (or of course having multiple names)

Tony says:

Re: Is this new anyway?

So, let’s see what is the lesson here. Not “behave” or “act appropriately” but rather, be sneaky, try to buck the (irrational) system. Basically, they will be taught to cheat. The same thing raised in another thread on student cheating using technology (and other methods)… well go figure… if now we are going to teach it in the schools, then its no wonder they do it.

Don says:

Firstly, as far as I am concerned the school has no authority for kids “off the clock” and the responsibility for the kids rest with their parent, and the school is overreaching it’s bounds. There’s already an angency to handle matters of parent not lving up to their responsibilites, it’s called the Illinois Department of Children and Family services (although this agency is so corrupt anyone concerned about pedophiles should certainly keep kids out of the hands of the DCFS).

As for the program itself. Sure it all starts out benign. We’re only going to take action against serious infractions, say smoking in the bathrooms, seriously threatening another student or teacher. And wh’re not going to be constantly monitoring, we’ll only act off tips and informants.

Somewhere along the line those students deemed “higher risk” will be set aside for closer attention. Of course increased monitoring of a select few is profiling and discrimination, so out of fairness we’ll just start monitoring all students a little more closely.

And the list of “actionable offenses” will slowly increase over time (hey we saw/heard you kicked your dog last night).

Anyone who thinks it won;t happen this way is simply being naive. It’s the same arguments we saw when they started all these Zero Tolerance programs (oh we won’t do this or that, and that sort of thing could never happpen) and now you see kids getting kicked out for aspirin or nail clippers.

And this program won;t be any more successful than the War on Drugs, Zero Tolerence, the War on Terror, or the instantaneous freedom by ousting Saddam Hussein

Felix says:

Forget the schools, where are the parents?!

Why are the schools worried about what goes on outside of school? Oh, I know, it affects the schools’ learning environment. Schools shouldn’t be doing it, but be thankful some still give a crap! If parents did their jobs, schools would only have to worry about teaching. What a concept. C’mon PARENTS, step up and LOVE your kids, watch what they’re doing, start early, question them, they want it and they’ll thank you… way down the line, but they will. Hey, teenager reading this.. If you disagree, do me a favor – print this and put it away for 20 years then come back and read it.

Tom says:

I agree with the school district!

Just last week we had a case where a student posted death threats on MySpace. Kids told their parents, who called the sherrif, who called in the school officials. That night the student was arrested, and the next morning the entire school was locked down and searched for weapons.

I am grateful that the school district acted quickly and decisively in this issue. It was a rare case of the school officials thinking clearly,

Mike says:

Re: I agree with the school district!

Just last week we had a case where a student posted death threats on MySpace. Kids told their parents, who called the sherrif, who called in the school officials. That night the student was arrested, and the next morning the entire school was locked down and searched for weapons.

I am grateful that the school district acted quickly and decisively in this issue. It was a rare case of the school officials thinking clearly,

I’m sorry, but you seem confused. This is NO WAY has anything to do with the article. So please leave now and save yourself the trouble.

The school district is WRONG. They are threatening to take away a student’s activities in school, including suspension and expulsion, because of things they post on a PUBLIC website.

If they posted on Myspace or any other blog IN SCHOOL, then it would be an issue. But to say they have the right to monitor what their students are doing on their OWN free time is illegal. They don’t have the right as public institutions.

My former HS has done something similar but LOGICAL. They have monthly assemblies with officials from the local PD and FBI explaining how to spot pedophiles and how to stay safe online. They don’t THREATEN their students by saying if they are caught posting pictures of them on the beach, they can’t join Leo Club. They explain to the students that people may look ok but end up being bad when you meet them.

THAT is what should be happening, not this “It’s all Myspace and GTA’s fault” bullshit.

Thank you for pissing me off.


Anonymous Coward says:

Ok, I don’t mind schools trying to protect kids from certain sites that may harm them but they can not force something that someone does off of school grounds. Once you are past those grounds the school has no authority over any student. Well in the US anyway. When I was in highschool, the school tried to force kids to sign a statment saying we won’t do this or that off of school grounds. Well that’s bogus and not signing it ment detention or suspension. I refused and they was going to until I braught in school board and other people. The drop out numbers for that year doubled for that year. Yeah that show them.

Katie (user link) says:


it may be disciplinary if in fact children are doing those things at school, but the school has absolutely no right to intefer with a childs outside life. No matter what. It is a parents responsibility, not a schools’! i belive that any school that tries to do this (mine did) is absolutely ridiculous…are they not the ones making fake names(such as myspace) and adding kids as their friends? I say thats almost stalkerish. Next thing you know teachers are going to be asking them to meet at certain places.

Beth says:

This sounds like our school, and yes we are in Illinois. At my sons school, students who participate in extra-curr. activities are forced to sign this pledge. It’s states that “any act that violates civil law or has a negative impact on the image of (the school name)” it also states that “students who display unacceptable behavior at any time, whether or not such behaviour is on school property of at a school sponsored event or activity.”

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...