What Happens at Home CAN Cause Problems at School

Last updated on February 26th, 2022 at 08:23 pm

Can your child get into trouble at school for what they do online at home?

While the answer to that question depends on where you live, the most likely answer to this is that a school can discipline a student for off-campus activities in some cases. The majority of U.S. states allow for it, reports the Cyberbullying Research Center. The rationale for this is for when activities off-campus negatively effect on-campus life beyond a reasonable amount.

That means that when a student engages in inappropriate behavior online, such as bullying a student or sending out racy images of another student, the school may have the right to take disciplinary action. While students (and parents) may argue that their actions don’t fall under the school’s province, the courts have decided otherwise.

And this is not just limited to actions taken by students. The same rules apply to staff/faculty as well. In my own county, a teacher was fired for comments made on her blog under an assumed identity that was derogatory towards her students. Her lawyers argued that she had the right to free speech, but a federal appeals court agreed with the school district for firing her, saying that her actions were “so disruptive at school as to tip the Pickering balance in the school district’s favor.” The Pickering balance refers to a 1968 case that determined that an employee’s right to free speech is protected IF it is a matter of public concern AND if the employee’s interest outweighs the public employer’s interest in an efficient workplace.

When my daughter was in sixth grade, I spoke with the vice-principal about this: kids using social media and how it affects the school environment. He told me that a day didn’t go by when he didn’t have students in his office, discussing something that happened online that caused a problem when the students saw each other again.

What makes that even more troublesome is that this was a grade school, going up to sixth grade. At this point, the students are almost certainly no older than 12 years old. This is important because most social media companies out there require that users be at least 13 years old to use their apps in order to avoid violating the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Rule of 1998, more commonly known as COPPA. This act was designed to limit the amount and type of data that companies can data-mine from them. In reality, it is one of the most broken laws we have, as millions of minors use apps that they should not be using.

How to Avoid Problems

Let’s be honest – most children have at least one incident through their school years that requires the school to take corrective action of some kind. One way to minimize that from happening is to follow the T.H.I.N.K. Principle, as recommended by Fifty Shades of Purple against Bullying, an organization designed to help families who have been affected by bullying in any form. The T.H.I.N.K. Principle helps teach everyone to avoid doing or saying something that could cause problems for them later by focusing on five key points:

  • TRUE Is what I’m saying True?
  • HELPFUL Is what I’m saying Helpful to the situation?
  • INSPIRING Is what I’m saying Inspiring to others?
  • NECESSARY Is what I’m saying Necessary?
  • KIND Is what I’m saying Kind?

It always amazes me as to what I see people post online, especially on Twitter. People say things online that they would never do in person, sometimes hiding behind the anonymity of an app. If we can’t honestly answer yes to these five questions, then we probably shouldn’t post it.

Maybe a better way to consider it is that we should dance like nobody else is watching, but post like we expect it to be read in the principal’s office or even open court someday.

About the Author

Joe Yeager is the founder of Safety Net of PA, LLC and has been a cybersafety advocate for several years. He is also an adjunct professor at Thomas Jefferson University. It was after his own daughter came across inappropriate content online that he became involved in helping others in the area. He is certified by the US Centers for Disease Control in Bullying Prevention and is the cyberbullying advisor to Fifty Shades of Purple against Bullying. He is also the author of #DigitalParenting- A Parent's Guide to Social Media, Cyberbullying &Online Activity which was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in April 2016. Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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