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Social Networking, Sexting , and YouTube: Protect Your Students, Protect Your School

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4 th Annual SW/WC Service Cooperative Technology Conference. Social Networking, Sexting , and YouTube: Protect Your Students, Protect Your School . Disclaimer.

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Presentation Transcript

The information in this presentation is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice.  It is intended to provide general legal information.  It does not cover all issues related to the topics discussed.  The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than you might anticipate based on the material presented.  Please consult with your own attorney with regard to specific issues.

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sources of law
Sources of Law
  • Constitutional law
  • Codified law
  • Case law
  • Contract law (“private law”)

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legal claims
What others might claimLegal Claims

What the Content creator claims

Free Speech




Invasion of privacy

Unfair competition

Right to publicity

Free speech


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use of school resources what may schools restrict
Use of school resources: what may schools restrict?

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Obscene, rude, and discriminatory speech

Criminal or dangerous speech

Speech that could cause damage or that presents a danger for the school or a school member

Speech that abuses or clogs the school internet system

If policy clearly declares the school system a “limited forum”: anything of a non-educational nature.

student non school use of the internet what may schools restrict
Student non-school use of the Internet: what may schools restrict?

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Student speech is likely to be protected unless the content:

  • Constitutes a material disruption to class work; or
  • Involves a substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others.

In practice, courts generally protect student speech unless it contains threats and references to violence.

creating private law for the school
Creating “private law” for the school

Policies . . .

  • Prescribe rules of conduct
  • Instruct re: privacy and personal safety issues
  • Identify school Internet system as a “limited forum”
  • Limit use of school Internet systems
  • Address the unique circumstances of “laptop schools”
  • Establish “free speech” parameters for private and parochial schools

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what falls into the private law category
What falls into the “private law” category?
  • Acceptable use policies (for students and staff)
  • Classroom and project specific guidelines
  • Parent permission slips
  • Student use “contracts”
  • Age-specific access policies

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multi step approach
Multi-step approach
  • Identify the technology issue
  • Conduct a stakeholder analysis
  • Conduct a policy audit
  • Draft/amend policy, if necessary
  • Develop strategies and solutions to maximize safety and minimize risk

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who are the stakeholders
Who are the stakeholders?
  • Identify all stakeholders – who is affected by the technology issue and who will be affected by a policy?
  • Prioritize stakeholders – who must be won over? Who needs notice? Who can assist with the process?

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conduct a policy audit
Conduct a policy audit

Has your school done the following:

  • Made an assessment of legal risks arising from the use of classroom technology?
  • Communicated clear expectations and boundaries re: all uses of the technology?
  • Enlisted student, staff, and parent input in drafting school technology “contracts”?
  • Established training requirements and policy acceptance procedures prior to allowing use of technology resources?

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conduct a policy audit cont
Conduct a policy audit, cont.
  • Incorporated parent education into your school’s technology strategy?
  • Established a “chain of command” for reporting incidents?
  • Reviewed the policies on a regular basis since instituting them? (Ask: Are the current policies flexible enough to deal with new/emerging technologies? What new issues need to be addressed now that didn’t exist previously?)

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imposter sites
Imposter sites

Most commonly appear on social networking sites.

Teachers and school administrators are common targets, as are students.

Related legal claims: defamation, invasion of privacy, violations of free speech.

J.S. through her parents Terry Snyder and Steven Snyder v. Blue Mountain School Dist. (Decision pending by 3rd Circuit)

Middle school student suspended for 10 days for creating derogatory imposter MySpace site portraying school principal as a pedophile and sex addict.

Parents brought suit alleging a violation of their child’s free speech rights and their rights as parents to determine how best to “raise, nurture, discipline, and educate” their child.

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teacher staff websites and blogs
Teacher/staff websites, and blogs

Off campus speech of public school teachers is scrutinized to a much greater extent than the speech of average persons. Off campus activity is a gray area for teacher free speech. Teachers also need to be aware that their on campus speech is subject to state Data Practices Acts.

Payne v. Barrow County School Dist.

Teacher alleges she was forced to resign her position without adequate notice or due process when confronted about Facebook photo in which she is holding an alcoholic beverage and a “status update” in which she used the word “bitch.”

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student and teacher communication
Student and teacher communication

Should teachers and students text and call each other on their personal cell phones? Should students and teachers be social networking “friends”? Are there risks associated with allowing these types of casual contacts? How and to what extent teachers should use these technologies to communicate with students is a matter of much debate.

Louisiana state law effective November 2009:

  • Schools required to document all electronic communication between teachers and students.
  • Extends to personal devices, not owned by the schools.
  • Failure to comply may constitute a “willful neglect of duty.”

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A newly coined term used to describe the practice among teens and young adults of sending sexually explicit photos to each other on their cell phones. Legislators are scrambling to get new laws in place to decriminalize the activity.

Logan v. Sycamore High School


  • School did not stop the bullying, taunting, harassment
  • No formal letter sent by school to teachers or members of school community
  • No counseling to help the student and no action to protect her privacy.

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disciplining students
Disciplining students

A number of cases have surfaced across the country in which parents are suing schools for inappropriately harsh discipline. Court rulings are mixed. Are students exercising free speech rights? Are there limits on the discipline schools may impose?

What risks do schools run when they choose not to discipline?

T.V. and M.K. v. Smith-Green Community School

Class action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and damages for students suspended from extra-curricular activities and forced into “unwarranted, mental health counseling” for summertime Facebook postings that were deemed to “reflect discredit” upon the school and which “created a disruptive influence on the good order, moral, or educational environment” of the school.

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additional discipline cases
Additional discipline cases
  • Miranda Jackson v. Pearl Public School Dist. (cheerleader sues school and coach for violation of her rights of privacy and free speech when coach demands access to private Facebook page and shares content with others at school).
  • J.W. v. Desoto County School Dist. (parent sues school alleging illegal search and seizure and challenging expulsion from school of her middle grade son who read a text message in class in violation of school cell phone policy).

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drafting amending policy
Drafting/amending policy
  • Collect data.
  • Solicit input.
  • Draft the new/revised policy.
  • Circulate the draft of the new/revised policy.
  • Approve and disseminate the new/revised policy.

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policy development general guidelines
Policy development: general guidelines
  • Amend school policies to include prohibitions against cyber-bullying
  • Draft school policies re: cell phones, cameras, recording devices, and other emerging technology.
  • Make policies age/grade appropriate.
  • Revisit and revise policy frequently.

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school policy re staff teacher social media use
School policy re: staff/teacher social media use


Policy #470 Employee Use of Social Media Networks


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make compliance easy
Make compliance easy
  • Purchase licensed products and services for students and staff that reduce or eliminate the need to access non-licensed works.
  • Purchase products and services with adequate (age-appropriate) privacy protections.
  • Provide detailed guidance and parameters for staff members developing online course materials.

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keep your fingers on the pulse
Keep your fingers on the pulse
  • Educate, disclose, seek feedback: the more input and documentation you have from students, parents, and administration, the better.
  • Develop an awareness of how students and staff are using technology.
  • Role play with students about what to do if inappropriate or suggestive comments are posted by others; role play with staff about what to do if they detect inappropriate use of technology; educate older students, in particular, about the risks of too much self disclosure.

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address ethical behavior with students and staff
Address ethical behavior with students and staff
  • Communicate and educate about ethical Internet conduct.
  • Help students understand the long term effects of Internet speech.
  • Offer students an opportunity to provide constructive, confidential feedback.

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available from corwin press at www corwinpress com
Available from Corwin Press at www.corwinpress.com

Little Buffalo Law & Consulting

Aimée M. Bissonette, JD

Little Buffalo Law & Consulting


[email protected]