Just how much oversight do schools have on social media pages? This was a question the Supreme Court was tasked to answer during the summer, and MCPS has taken advantage of that ruling.
The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, sided with a Pennsylvania high school student, who in 2017, was suspended from her school’s cheer team for cursing out her school and cheer team on Snapchat for failing to win a promotion from the JV to Varsity cheerleading, according to NPR. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer noted that generally, parents rather than schools have the responsibility to discipline off-campus speech. The highest court of the land, however, did say that school administrators have the power to punish student speech that is posted online or off campus if it posts a genuine disruption to classroom studies.
That ruling from the Supreme Court is what influenced, at least in part, the latest MCPS guidelines on school club social media pages. “MCPS policy this school year is that each club social media page must be overseen by a staff member. These club social media pages are a reflection of Wootton High School and MCPS, so the school must have access to them if needed. We will not be logging into your account unless there is an inappropriate post or comment from your club account,” according to a statement from the school to club leaders.
I understand why administration has implemented this policy. It has been stated that the club social media will only be accessed if there is an inappropriate post, but guidelines have not been given as to what qualifies as inappropriate and what qualifies as social media. For instance, does Discord count as a social media platform.”
— Parth Mishra
Senior Parth Mishra, who is president of the school’s History Club and Co-President of Public Policy Club, sympathizes with the school’s reasoning but has some concerns about terms that lack context. “I understand why administration has implemented this policy. It has been stated that the club social media will only be accessed if there is an inappropriate post, but guidelines have not been given as to what qualifies as inappropriate and what qualifies as social media. For instance, does Discord count as a social media platform,” Mishra said. “Additionally, we will be giving them the current social media login information. However, we will probably have to update it anytime it gets changed over the next school year, which could prove to be inconvenient.”
Senior Samir Mitri, co-president of the school’s Fishing Club, shares the concerns about administration having access to club accounts. “I understand where the school is coming from. I guess it is to keep everything safe and it acts as a preventative measure of sorts. I am curious as to how the school would know about any inappropriate posts or comments if the account is not being monitored. Assuming they find out about inappropriate posts through students reporting such posts, then couldn’t the school just ask club leaders to take down the post in question? A lot of these club accounts also follow students’ private accounts, and if administrators have access to these club accounts, then they indirectly have access to student accounts, which feels like a breach of personal privacy, especially if a lot of personal accounts are set to be private profiles. Good in practice, but it has flaws,” Mitri said.