Warily, schools watch students on the internet

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

For years, a school principal’s job was to make sure students were not creating a ruckus in the hallways or smoking in the bathroom. Vigilance ended at the schoolhouse gates.

Now, as students complain, taunt and sometimes cry out for help on social media, educators have more opportunities to monitor students around the clock. And some schools are turning to technology to help them. Several companies offer services to filter and glean what students do on school networks; a few now offer automated tools to comb through off-campus postings for signs of danger. For school officials, this raises new questions about whether they should — or legally can — discipline children for their online outbursts.

The problem has taken on new urgency with the case of a 12-year-old Florida girl who committed suicide after classmates relentlessly bullied her online and offline.

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