Dangerous overreach feared as school district monitors social media activity for kids’ own protection

Ben Franklin once said that “those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither,” but a Florida school district is willing to take the risk.

The Orange County school district informed parents Wednesday that it is monitoring all social media activity from school campuses as part of a new program to check cyber-bullying, crime on campus and suicide, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The monitoring will include both students and staff.

Software from Texas-based Snaptrends will capture and analyze posts from Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, looking for key words that might indicate trouble, the Sentinel reported.

School administrators and/or police would be notified of flagged posts, depending on content.

Doug Tripp, senior director of safety and security, told the Sentinel social media messages are “open-source information” publicly available to anyone with the right tools.

While concerned about student privacy, Orange County School Board member Linda Kobert said the district was taking advantage of “new tools to protect our children” from cyber-bullying,

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“I think this is another way to prevent that or prevent harm,” Kobert said.

The district began monitoring social media sites several weeks ago and said it has already identified a student threatening “self-harm.”

With political correctness pervasive in schools, and religious liberty under siege in the quest for a more “tolerant” society, some parents are concerned about what is being flagged.

“How long until Catholic students/teachers who post in favor of Church teachings on social media are hauled in for creating a hateful environment?” Orange County parent Linda O’Keefe asked on social media.

Another parent took it a step further: “Big brother is watching our kids now.”

The district said it hoped the decision would prompt a discussion over the summer on the appropriate use of social media.

Not to worry, the debate is already underway.

Tom Tillison

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