Legal Eagle : Education ministry should take social media challenge
Social media platforms are such wonderful things. Young and old, boys and girls and people of all races from every corner of the earth can communicate with each other and/or post pictures and items on social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Snapshot, Twitter, Yammer and Blogs.
For students, the research potential is enormous. It can be used to share successes and remind people of important milestones, provide updates on major disaster or important events, used as an effective election communication tool, provide students with updates on school projects, and so many other things.
The flip side to the above is that social media have been used to shame, disgrace, libel and reveal nude pictures or videos of persons engaged in sexual acts. They are the preferred tools for paedophiles, and the damage to character and reputation is always instant and cannot be retracted.
The latest reminder of the negative side of social media involves about seven students from St Catherine High School. The video went viral.
It was a skit about what they would do or not do with the male and female genitalia colloquially called the p...y and the d...k. In addition, for most of last week, it was a hot topic on most of the radio-talk show programmes in Jamaica.
The reaction from the schoolís principal was to suspend the students. This is only because what the administrators saw on the video clip was a bunch of naughty students who wanted to bring the good name of the school into disrepute.
The St Catherine High students were dressed in their school uniforms and must have been a big consideration why the school's administrators could not resist the temptation to take some kind of action in order to send a strong message to its own school community that this kind of behaviour would not be tolerated in the future.
The education regulations gives a principal the authority to suspend a student without a hearing. The next step would be for the suspended students, their parents or guardians and/or legal representatives to attend a hearing with the board of management to determine whether or not to continue the suspension for a further period of time or end it with conditions such as counselling and/or public apology.
The public debate will continue but as part of that debate, we must consider whether or not the Ministry of Education ought to develop and implement a social media policy for schools to include the conduct of teachers and students. The social media policy would offer guidance and directions on the use of social media, t10since social media can offer social, academic and professional help to all 10students and teachers alike withoutt disturbing the students' or teachers' right to freedom of speech.