It’s the fourth birthday for Reason TV’s Nanny of the Month, and they have an interesting range of choices today. Banning paparazzi and curtailing party buses take a back seat (groan) to the latest effort to watch for zero-tolerance violations by students in public schools. Actually, make that students attending public schools, because the surveillance aims at their activities on line, on their own time:
Nanny of the Month turns four-years-old (!) this month, and our nation’s busybodies show no signs of slowing down. On this very special episode, Nanny features a city that’s determined to take the “party” out of party buses by making them boozeless (police will conduct sting operations to enforce the new ordinance), a new California law–championed by actress and humanitarian Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner–that cracks down on paparazzi who photograph the children of celebrities.
But on this very special episode, the award for nation’s busiest body goes to the official who’s championing the Next Big Thing among surveillance state-loving school administrators–keeping 24/7 tabs on students’ social media activities. The main justification is–what else?–keeping kids safe, and administrators are keeping their eyes peeled for all kinds of possible red flags, including drug use, profanity, bullying, hate speech, sexual harassment, and the use of fake IDs. California’s Glendale Unified School district is monitoring 14,000 students, and the company hired to conduct the snooping expects to be keeping tabs on students in 3,000 schools worldwide by the end of the year.
I’ve always been skeptical of the celebrity-protection law regarding the paparazzi, and not because I’m a fan of celebrity-watching — far from it. The public square is open to everyone, though, and that includes people with cameras. The expansion of this protection to judges, police, and politicians should be even more worrisome. I don’t doubt that celebrities have a real concern about some of the jerks in the entertainment press corps (and in other segments of the media, too), but that looks very much like a slippery slope that will limit freedom at our expense down the road.
That does tend to pale against the surveillance contemplated by this school district of its students. One parent says in the video that “as a parent, I’m okay with that” — but as a parent, isn’t watching her children’s Facebook page and other social-media activities her job? The school has to enforce discipline at the school (which extends all the way to bus stops in most jurisdictions), but other than that should stay out of the way and let parents do the parenting. The “hate speech” surveillance is the most disturbing aspect of this: what qualifies, and who judges? And why is that a problem for the school if it’s not occurring there? Besides, these days the arguably more prominent danger to kids on social media are school personnel.
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