California School Introduces Social Media Contract for Students

There is a lot of buzz this week around a California school district that has announced its intention to require any student who plays for a sports team or participates in extracurricular activities to sign a social media contract.

subtweet-wmimThe Lodi Unified School District’s Bear Creek High School is facing student protests over the guidelines, which are well intentioned but are not likely to produce perfect results. The students are protesting a loss of rights – specifically freedom of speech – and some students interviewed in an article at have said that they will forego extracurricular activities rather than sign.

In addition to the free speech issue, students argue that the policy is too broad and open to the interpretation of school officials. Students can be disciplined for any social media behavior deemed unacceptable by school officials. For example, students are prohibited from “Liking” or retweeting any social media content that the school decides is inappropriate.

As part of the contract, students are prohibited from subtweeting at any time. A subtweet is a social media comment to or about someone, without using that person’s name. Subtweets can be a common device used by bullies, but are also used to legitimately communicate ideas, often in a humorous or romantic way.

We understand that if a school provides activities beyond their core education responsibility, it has the right to exact extra concessions from students, and strongly agree that the school has the right to punish bullying and other offenses, especially when they happen on school grounds.

We haven’t seen a copy of the full policy (if you have it, please email us a copy). The reported ban on subtweeting goes too far, and the definition of inappropriate needs to be defined at least in general terms. If the protests are carried out, an unintended consequence will be that students will have a more difficult time getting into college without extracurricular activities on their resume. That can’t be what they want to see happen.


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