If we searched through the school library at any Community High School District 128 facility in northern Illinois, I wonder whether we would find a copy of George Orwell’s classic, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”? If so, it would be good to offer a copy to the local school board, which on Monday night passed rules changes that will hold students accountable for what they post on blogs and social-networking Web sites. The school board’s action seems “Orwellian” to me.

Here is part of the article from the Tuesday Chicago Tribune:

Associate Supt. Prentiss Lea said the changes are part of an effort to get the district community more knowledgeable about the growing Internet blog phenomenon and more aware of the pitfalls of such sites as MySpace.com.

“By adding the blog sites [to the student codes of conduct], we wanted to raise discussions on the issue,” he said. “We have taken the first steps to starting that conversation.”

Conversation may be starting, but it includes a lot of discussion about overstepping boundaries. The Trib quoted one parent as saying, I don’t think they need to police what students are doing online. That’s my job.” The article states that school district officials will monitor student web sites if they get a tip or other indication that something inappropriate or illegal is posted there.

I have no argument against anyone guarding against illegal or libelous material being posted. In fact, one of my neighbors is an assistant state’s attorney, in charge of the computer crime unit that seeks out and prosecutes child predators. My kids must wonder why I often sound so strident about “safe computing” after I’ve come back from talking with this neighbor.

But this “Big Brother” initiative by the school board is not the way to handle it. Here is the link to the District’s Internet Safety Resource page. There, the District states that it “wants to proactively partner with parents on an education program that provides both our parents and students some basic information on how to use the Internet safely.”

That’s fine. But usurping a parent’s authority and deciding how to hold a student accountable is not the way to handle this. Call the parent(s) and discuss with them how best to deal with the situation.

Our kids will bring their viewpoints of social media into the workplace someday in the near future. I want mine to understand and respect this communication channel. I’ve been having conversations with my kids, and I will be glad to hear from their schools about any potential issues–but the schools need to leave the parenting to the parents.