Students banned from personal blogging.
Students at Pope John XIII Regional High School in New Jersey have been ordered to take down their blogs, such as those maintained by students at MySpace and Xanga, or face suspension.
And this isn’t just certain students, or certain content. The ban on student blogs is school-wide. And, under the order, they can’t maintain blogs anywhere, any time - not even from their homes.
Catholic and other private schools, unlike public schools, are not subject to the same strict scrutiny when it comes to bans on speech.
“When students post their faces, personal diaries and gossip on Web sites like Myspace.com and Xanga.com, it is not simply harmless teen fun,” explained one unnamed New Jersey Catholic school principal.
In announcing the ban at the school, Pope John XIII High School’s Rev. Kieran McHugh explained that “It’s an open invitation to predators and an activity that Pope John XIII Regional High School in Sparta will no longer tolerate.”
Sounds like there’s trouble in River City!
Explained Rev. McHugh, “The primary impetus behind the ban is to protect students.”
Kevin Bankston, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, conceded that there is a long tradition of private schools regulating student activity outside of school walls, but added that “It’s an incredible overreaction based on an unproven problem. If they’re concerned about safety, they could train students in what they should or shouldn’t put online.” Bankston added that he believed that the real reason for the blog ban was that the school wanted to suppress negative comments about the school itself.
Probably not the best way to go about it.
Wrote one recently expelled senior, “pope john kicks you out once you think freely.”