Educational CyberPlayGround ®

Student rights to privacy and K12 School Rights vs. Students Online privacy rights.



What you Need to know about your child's privacy rights.




Schools fail to punish students' online activities when done from the home.

Those Blogs and Podcasts - Children say and show too much - how to find out if there are doing this.

The Social Networking Sites where children say and show too much - learn where they are.

Get a parental signature on an Internet use agreement at the time a student enrolls in a school.
Do not identify K-12 children with their real full online instead use their school username. "Username @ YourSchool Permission for non-profit use is granted. All other rights reserved. Minors can't sign contract they aren't legal so if something goes up for commercial use, to make money the child's parents have to sign an agreement for payment.


"Podcasting Legal Guide: Rules for the Revolution," "a general roadmap of some of the legal issues specific to podcasting." The guide covers copyright, publicity rights, and trademark issues related to content that you acquire or create. Information is also provided on licensing your podcast.

Supreme Court Cases

"The Supreme Court's 1988 decision in the case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier defined the level of First Amendment protection that public high school students working on school-sponsored publications are entitled to.
That case was a follow up to the landmark 1969 Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. Together, these cases set the standards school officials must meet before they can legally censor student expression under the First Amendment. (State laws and regulations may provide additional protection -- see below.)'
And here's a background on the case itself
"In January 1988, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. 1
The decision upheld the right of public high school administrators at Hazelwood East High School in suburban St. Louis, Mo., to censor stories concerning teen pregnancy and the effects of divorce on children from a school-sponsored student newspaper.
"The Hazelwood decision was in dramatic contrast to the decisions of courts across the country handed down over the previous 15 years that had given student journalists extensive First Amendment protections. As a result, many students and advisers are concerned about the status of their rights.
"Although the Supreme Court was only dealing with a student newspaper in this case, it seems clear that all student news and information media could be affected. Student newspapers, yearbooks and literary magazines as well as radio and TV programs can use this information as a guide. Because the First Amendment only protects against the actions of government officials and the Hazelwood case only dealt with First Amendment rights, private school students are unaffected by the Hazelwood decision. They must rely on school policies or state law to protect their free expression rights.

A "public forum" for student expression.

"The most significant aspect of the Hazelwood decision is the emphasis it gives to determining whether a student publication is or is not a "public forum" for student expression. Some student publications that formerly may have been presumed public forums may not be after Hazelwood. The determination of forum status may not always be clear, but this packet describes how it will likely be made."

See Social Networking for more information.

The other important case in this area is from 1969: Tinker V. Des Moines.
"Summary: Students were suspended by school officials for wearing a simple black armband to school to protest Vietnam War. U.S.
Supreme Court held that students speech was protected. Students, the Court held, do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate, and school officials may not punish or prohibit student speech unless they can clearly demonstrate that it will result in a material and substantial disruption of normal school activities or invades the rights of others.'
The more relevant case here is Tinker, but this decision has been eroded over the years, in particular because of Hazelwood.
Since public schools are generally funded at the state level, then state law and case law usually apply with more force and in most cases are more restrictive than the federal level, IIRC.

Guide to Student Blogging

11/18/05 Guide for Student Bloggers Helps Kids Speak Out - Legal Blogging Tips from EFF
San Francisco - Millions of students across the country are speaking their minds in Internet blogs, and some kids are getting punished for it despite their right to free expression. School administrators in one New Jersey district disciplined a student for his website that was critical of the school. The student eventually received a settlement of $117,500 for the violation of his First Amendment rights, but not before he was suspended for a week and barred from going on his class trip.
Just what are students allowed to publish about their school, their teachers, and their classmates? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a guide to student blogging Friday to help kids learn about their rights and how to defend them. These are important issues for millions of students: a study this month by the Pew Internet & American Life Project says approximately 4 million teens keep a blog.
"Teens are blogging everyday, reaching an audience of millions," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "With this legal guide, students will have the tools they need to blog legally, and understand how to defend their rights." The guide to student blogging addresses the different rules for personal blogs and school blogs, for both public and private school students. It also gives advice on how to speak freely about school and discuss controversial issues.
"Students can and should talk about what's important to
them in their blogs," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin
Bankston. "That is naturally going to include their school life, and perhaps even topics that make some adults uncomfortable. Students should know their First Amendment rights, so that they can continue to have honest discussions about their lives."
Contact The Electronic Frontier Foundation
Kevin Bankston bankston at [p] +1 415 436-9333 x126
Kurt Opsahl kurt at [p] +1 415 436 9333 x106

12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs to Know


a. You understand and agree that may review and delete any content, messages, Messenger messages, photos or profiles (collectively, "Content") that in the sole judgment of violate this Agreement or which may be offensive, illegal or violate the rights,harm, or threaten the safety of any Member.

b. You are solely responsible for the Content that you publish or display (hereinafter, "post") on the Service or any material or information that you transmit to other Members.

d. The following is a partial list of the kind of Content that is illegal or prohibited on the Website. reserves the right to investigate and take appropriate legal action in its sole discretion against anyone who violates this provision, including without limitation, removing the offending communication from the Service and terminating the membership of such violators. Prohibited Content includes Content that: i. is patently offensive and promotes racism, bigotry, hatred or physical harm of any kind against any group or individual; ii. harasses or advocates harassment of another person; iii. involves the transmission of "junk mail", "chain letters," or unsolicited mass mailing or "spamming"; iv. promotes information that you know is false or misleading or promotes illegal activities or conduct that is abusive, threatening, obscene, defamatory or libelous; v. promotes an illegal or unauthorized copy of another person's copyrighted work, such as providing pirated computer programs or links to them, providing information to circumvent manufacture-installed copy-protect devices, or providing pirated music or links to pirated music files;
vi. contains restricted or password only access pages or hidden pages or images (those not linked to or from another accessible page); vii. provides material that exploits people under the age of 18 in a sexual or violent manner, or solicits personal information from anyone under 18;
viii. provides instructional information about illegal activities such as makingor buying illegal weapons, violating someone's privacy, or providing or creating computer viruses;
ix. solicits passwords or personal identifying information for commercial or unlawful purposes from other users; or
x. involves commercial activities and/or sales without our prior written consent such as contests, sweepstakes, barter, advertising, or pyramid schemes.

e. You must use the Service in a manner consistent with any and all applicable laws and regulations.

f. You may not include in your Member profile any telephone numbers, street addresses, last names, URLs or email addresses.

g. Although cannot monitor the conduct of its Members off the Website, it is also a violation of these rules to use any information obtained from the Service in order to harass, abuse, or harm another person, or in order to contact, advertise to, solicit, or sell to any Member without their prior explicit consent. In order to protect our Members from such advertising or solicitation, reserves the right to restrict the number of emails which a Member may send to other Members in any 24-hour period to a number which deems appropriate in its sole discretion.

i. You may not attempt to impersonate another user or person who is not a member of
(This rule addresses the problem presented by the student impersonating the principal.)

Article: see

Weblogs - Student Blogs, School Cracks Down
Weblogs and journals are nothing new, although they have really taken off in the past year.
Use a blog, go to jail? One of the Leoville Town Square regulars, BEACHTechie, aka Sam, is a high school student in Virginia Beach, VA. He recently got busted by the school administration for blogging, of all things. They seem to think blogging from school is a violation of their acceptable use policies. Perhaps it is. Sammy will be blogging from home from now on. But it seems to me that instead of discouraging blogging they should encourage each student to create one. After all, most writing classes encourage their students to keep journals, and that's exactly what a blog is. I've posted a message of support in Sam's blog, I hope the school reads it.
Ignorance breeds fear. This is why I consider it so important to educate everyone on the value of computers and the Internet. I hope his school's administrators take the time to learn about blogging. I think they'll see that it's no threat.

The Students blog is here:

This is the post:
Just call me Dennis, I keep on getting in trouble at school!
I was in the office again today, balling my eyes out. Lets just say one of the options is to have me expelled from the school. I was gasping for air half the time I was in there. I had to write this affidavit telling them everything I knew about my blog, how long I had been posting from school, who else from my school had a blog and everything. I was crying the entire time. And don't you dare joke me for crying. I mean, you'd cry too if you had a PERFECT perm. record and then have it screwed up in high school and mess up your chances of getting into the college of your choice.
I am going to hold back my anger and frustration for the wall in front of me.
Dad is picking me up in a minute, ttyl.

Reactions - kept Annonymous and edited

-- O)

After reading his "blogs" I think this young man needs a lesson in tolerance more than he needs your support on his 1st amendment rights. The following is an excerpt from his "blog" (talking about a kid in his school):

>There is this kid in my school, when I sit down at lunch with my friends, I know where to find my entertainment...
>He puts his bookbag on the table and puts his hands into a praying's HILARIOUS. And thats not half of it, he does karate shit on it! I mean....he prays and then does like a judo-chop on it and punches it and everything. I think he's messed up in the head. Yesterday during lunch, I was listening in on him and the people at the other table, they were just laughing at him and were like "do you want my fries?" and the kid said "no, fries, or anything with grease gives me gas."
What a dumbass!
... I just sit there and do my work, drink my pepsi, and watch him make a complete fool of himself.

It's my opinion that his values need more work than his constitutional rights. You referenced journals. Journal writing is one of the fastest growing areas of educational litigation. Teachers MUST read every journal entry that is made or they will be found to be liable according to current case law.

A young man committed suicide at a school near mine. It was an incredible tragedy that affected the entire school community. His parents came to the school to get the contents of his locker. In there they found a journal he had been writing in English class. He made numerous references to suicide that would have alerted any reasonable teacher to notify the counseling staff. There were no other places that the parents could find any reference to depression or suicide other than the journal. His friends said that he never mentioned anything other than to say that he was very sad.
The school, district and teacher were sued and lost. The court found that there was a "reasonable expectation" that if a teacher gives an assignment that it will be read.
Our attorneys have insisted (and it is now in our administrative and faculty guidelines) that all assignments that are given must be read in a reasonable amount of time. The teachers in our 300 school district/diocese (250 elementary/middle schools and 52 high schools) are no longer allowed to give assignments that they do not read. It is no longer allowed to have students write a journal with the expectation on the part of the student that it will not be read. Students must be told that whatever they write will be read.
Journals are wonderful teaching tools, but they are a lawsuit waiting to happen if the teacher does not read them.

-- Reply to O) from ##
Who is running your school? You or your attorneys?
I see no problem with students and parents knowing up front that an assignment, such as a journal, will be spot checked rather than thouroughly read. Better defense attorneys in case like this would have thrown the decision the other way. Remember, in our system "justice" comes at a price. The more you spend the more justice you get (4 years experience as a deputy sheriff made that clear).

-- O) Well, I can't say that they are my favorite people and attorneys certainly don't run my school, but I listen very closely to them. I would be foolish not to. I am the steward of my school's resources and I take that responsibility very seriously. I find it amusing to hear flippant comments like that because they are nearly always made by those who are not in a position to be hurt by the consequences. I also like living in my home and I have a responsibility to my family to protect them from frivolous lawsuits that could affect my wife and children. I know that justice comes at a price, but that's a little too steep for me particularly when your form of justice is not mine.
Spot reading just will NOT do it. All journals and other assignments must be thoroughly read. Court decisions in this regard have been quite clear.
We have an obligation as educators to read the assignments we give. How would you feel if you were the teacher that missed the warning signs of suicide? I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. My conscience would not be assuaged by what you consider justice.
These are children, not adults. Just read the sample I gave from his "blog." This young boy is in need of a serious look at his value system.
To laugh at another student or to seek entertainment at the suffering of others or because they are "different" is inexcusable. I notice you dropped that point. Is it right to seek justice at the price of another's degradation. We seem to have two different views of justice and I would hope that your 4 years as a law enforcement officer would give you more sensitivity to injustice...which is what I read in his "blog."
They need our adult guidance. They are not adults. To treat them as adults hurts them. They are, at times, crying out for us to hear them. Not to read what is written makes the grading easier, but it does a disservice to the children and might just get them killed.

Reply to O) from &&

> After reading his "blogs" I think this young man needs a lesson in tolerance more than he needs your support on his 1st amendment rights.

I agree with O) to support a student's first amendment rights to express a controversial opinion.
-- if done so based on good research, effective advocacy, and demonstrating respect for those with different viewpoints? Absolutely, all the way, no question. Under First Amendment standards for student speech in schools,schools may not discipline a student based on viewpoint discrimination.
Support a student's right to engage in online harassment, bullying, discrimination, or other harmful speech? Not on your life. Not only does the student need a lesson in tolerance, values and responsible journalsim, but any educator who support a child's free speech right to engage in harmful speech ought to have his/her head examined.
The legal aspects of this issue go far beyond the litigation threats related to student journals. With blogs we are now involved in online publication. If there is a school nexus, this raises the potential of litigation against the school for harm caused by speech that constitutes an invasion of privacy or defamation. Do your teachers and students have a good understanding of the legal issues related to responsible journalism? If they do not, now may be a good time to rethink your curriculum and find places where such concepts should be introduced. Professional development -- it is a good thing.
Additionally, school-based harassment is a violation of Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Schools are responsible for illegal actions they know about or should have known about. Schools are also obligated to prevent harassment in the school by anyone. This means districts must react to harassment of students and staff at the hands of staff, students, and others.
-- online harassment in an environment established by the school or promoted by a teacher (e.g. teacher directs students to use a certain web site for blogs which are part of the learning activity) could result in some **major legal problems*** for a school district if a student published material that harasses another student and the school does not *promptly and effectively" respond.