Delete Your Facebook Account Or I’ll Expel You, Ballsy Principal Tells Students

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cyberbullyingWe all know that teachers are expected to uphold certain moral standards outside the classroom, but should students be expected to do the same? We’re not talking about murder or crack-cocaine here but rather social media. The issue at hand? A principal at an Australian primary school is threatening to expel students under 13 who refuse to delete their Facebook accounts.

Leonie Hultgren, who runs Harlaxton State School in Queensland, is implementing the policy in an attempt to eliminate cyber-bullying. So clearly it’s for a good reason. But the idea of school officials trying to control what goes on outside the school halls has irked some parents.

It all started when Hultgren explained the new policy in a school newsletter. She reminded parents that Facebook requires its users to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account. Of course, this fact means nothing to a vast majority of parents around the world. Hultgren went to say that the school expects parents and their children to uphold this “law.”

“A student who contravenes the law or rule in a digital scenario may need to meet with the Principal to discuss this issue and their continued enrollment at Harlaxton,” Hulgren wrote. Needless to say, shit hit the fan, prompting Hulgren to send out a follow-up letter that included the following:

“Last Friday we set the ‘cat among the pigeons’ by posting a status update onto the school Facebook site that asked parents to monitor the use of their child’s Facebook page. Why, I imagine many of you asking, is it any of the school’s business? The answer is, anything that impacts on the good order and management of the school is considered to be an issue for the school. As many of the parents in the STARS class would testify, there has been some considerable Facebook traffic that either bullies a child of this school or in some cases denigrates some staff and the school. Either of these circumstances warrant the school becoming involved.”

Part of me admires Hultgren for making such a bold move. The truth is, cyber-bullying is a very real issue that has devastating effects on so many kids today. She’s truly doing everything in her power to combat it, which is admirable in and of itself. (I wish that more schools would take accountability.) That said, if someone told me, as a parent, what I can and can’t allow my children to do with regards to social media, I’d be less than pleased (to put it mildly).

Hultgren is actually being backed by the Queensland Education Department’s regional director, who says that principals have the power to discipline students found to be using technology inappropriately “both at school and outside of school hours.” But lawyer Steven Troeth told The Sydney Morning Herald that while schools had the right to take disciplinary action when Facebook was used to bully students or staff, even if the bullying occurred outside school hours, he doubted principals had the authority to issue a blanket ban on social media.

“‘You won’t come to our school if you have a Facebook page’ seems to me to be extending beyond the realms of the school’s ability to dictate what students can and can’t do at home,” he said.

What do you think? How would you feel if you received a letter like the one Hultgren sent out? Should principals have a right to dictate what goes on outside of school hours?