Should Schools Be Snooping on Students Online?

welcome-to-new-jersey1-1An editorial today in New Jersey’s Star Ledger, arguably the Liberal voice of print media in the state, takes a look at the question, “Should NJ schools be snooping on students?”

It has been big news in education circles this year that a California school district is paying online monitoring firm Geo Listening to report on threatening student internet activity. According to the article:

The hired company, called Geo Listening, gives a daily report to school officials on internet posts involving substance abuse, crime, vandalism, bullying, or vulgar or suicidal language.

We have argued before that it may be appropriate for schools to monitor for a very specific set of risks. To our way of thinking, and referencing the list quoted above, monitoring for student suicidal language, for example, should fit into what should be permissible, foul language should not.

From what we’ve learned, the work being done by Geo Listening is not overly intrusive. First, the company reviews public posts only, so first level privacy concerns (hacking private accounts) are not violated. Second, monitoring posts that reference a school name or are location-based in the immediate vicinity of the school should be fair game. Third, Geo Listening employs a team of reviewers that evaluate the intent of the poster before reports are submitted to school officials. Jokes, sarcasm and simple off color comments should be omitted.

That being said, we favor parents doing the monitoring, not schools, unless an imminent school threat looms. The comments section following the article is instructive as to what NJ parents are thinking:

The decision, if one must be made, should be driven by the parents, not the … Board of Ed.


It seems to me we are allowing school officials to pry way, way to far into personal lives. This will get solved someday in the Courts when school administrators go too far in attempting to regulate off campus speech in their quest to turn children into a bunch pansies.


Yea waste some more of our property tax dollars. Then cry about paying teachers more when the school budget rolls around. School have ONE job….teach the kids. Leave the parenting to the parents.

New Jersey schools are already required by law to investigate any report of bullying by students – cyber or otherwise – and one can assume that any credible threat to the school or students would be reported to the authorities. Allowing or encouraging schools to more closely monitor students’ online activities rather than leaving it to the parents goes too far, in our opinion.


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