Monday, December 19, 2005

student communication rights

Plunkers writes in his blog:

At this time I suddenly had access to all the student blogs. This really opened my eyes. The students really want to express themselves in this environment. Students want to spell things correctly, they want to be considered important enough that people read their blogs and they want to be interesting. (My blog has already been classified as REALLY boring, guess I've got some work to do ;-) )

Of most interest however was that I had access to pictures of students hanging around at school (taken on mobile phones) and a complete set of camp photos from Adelaide.

The traditional school is one where teachers carefully monitor all student behaviour and intervene quickly when students move outside prescribed boundaries - no bad language, no harrassment of others, no body contact, no smoking etc.

One of the teachers primary roles - duty of care - is to protect students from any harm, to "first do no harm"

Teachers and schools have to be far more careful than parents have to be - in theory students have no privacy whatsoever at school - someone is always watching them (yard duty) - the only privacy they have is when they go to the toilet and they have to ask permission for that

At recess, lunch, before and after school many students break these rules. For example, in their friendship groups they may use bad language, tease each other, have body contact of some type etc. - this is usually done in a low level way which doesn't upset anyone.

The advent of blogging, mobile phones (with cameras), the internet, flickr photo sharing, podcasting and other social software introduces opportunities for increased commmunication and collaboration between students

One thing is certain - students will keep on using this technology more and more - we can block it in schools in the name of protecting them from harmful behaviours but that won't stop them using it outside of school

Shouldn't schools be training their students in safe behaviours on the internet, rather than attempting to block all possible avenues of unsafe behaviour?

I know of a recent case where a school has blocked all google images because a handful of students searched for and found images of bestiality in a class - other students saw this and reported it to their parents who made complaints to the school - the response in this case has been to block anything that might lead to something like this occurring again

My frustrated feeling about this is: Why do the blockers have all the rights? Why does a whole school population have to be deprived of a useful resource because it can be abused?

What would be the response to a parent who phoned in complaining about the blocking of all google images because a handful of students broke the rules?

It seems that a parent could launch legal proceedings against a school if their child is exposed to pornography inadvertently. But that a parent could not launch legal proceedings against a school for depriving their child of a useful educational resource.

Most schools have an internet agreement form in place about what students can and can't do on the internet. Doesn't that form mean anything?

I really would like to see some clarification of the legal issues.

We have here a situation where parent rights to protect their children (backed by an implied legal threat) is being given more weight than other considerations.

Personally, I'm mainly concerned about the teachers right to teach an innovative curriculum. For example, flickr and blogging are marvellous educational resources which I already use. I don't want to lose them.

Another consideration is student rights to express themselves. Student rights seem to be at the bottom of the list in schools. I was surprised recently to read that the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has published an FAQ about student blogging rights. They refer to legal cases in the USA about student rights to free speech, including their right to criticise their teachers and schools.

America has the First Amendment, the right to free speech. Students rights to free speech, what a novel idea! What have we got?

2 Comments:

Blogger Jason Plunkett said...

Is this the kind of thing you're looking for Bill?

The Convention of the Rights of the Child
resigned by Australia in 1990


Article 13
1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.
2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/k2crc.htm

4:31 PM  
Blogger Bill Kerr said...

thanks. After receiving jason's information about "rights of the child" I posted the following to the it and tech teachers lists in SA:

IMO educonnect as it has been setup in SA schools is in violation of the United Nations "Convention on the Rights of the Child", which has been signed by Australia. For example, writing to the web is blocked by default: Message/Bulletin Boards, Web Mail, Web Page Hosting.
http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/k2crc.htm

I'm interested in other opinions and information about this, particularly but not only legal opinions.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in the USA has published an FAQ about student blogging rights
http://www.eff.org/bloggers/lg/faq-students.php
We need something like this for Australian students

Convention on the Rights of the Child
Article 13

1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.

2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

9:52 AM  

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