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Expel or not? That is the question

by Prasad Krishna last modified Apr 02, 2011 12:48 PM
The decision of an international school to expel 14 students for their alleged ‘promiscuous’ behaviour has led to much debate and discussion.

The International School Bangalore (TISB) said the students were caught in ‘compromising positions’ on several occasions. They did not heed the school’s repeated warnings to desist from such behaviour, school authorities said.

The authorities said they had enough ‘evidence’, collected from social networking sites, to support their claim. The students would not be allowed on the campus anymore. They would, however, be allowed to take the exam in May, the authorities said.

The students have denied the charges. Many boarding institutions said that policing students was not the right approach.

Some of the widely used measures to keep a check on students include monitoring social networking sites, banning laptops on campuses, not allowing students to lock room doors, having security guards patrol campuses and insisting on house masters accompanying students to any part of the campus or hostel after school hours.

“There is no point in expelling students for such an activity,” M Srinivasan, principal, GEAR School, said. “If the students had been indulging in such activities often, what were the school authorities doing till now? There is no point making rules if you cannot enforce them. Clearly, there was a lacuna in the system,” he said.

Many schools said they keep a tab on the online activities of students. “The IT department at the school tracks the Facebook accounts of students,” Bishwajeet Bhattacharya, public relations officer, Trio World School, said. “Trio also has a presence on Facebook. The administration has appointed officials to monitor what is being posted online regarding Trio,” he said. The officials also look for objectionable materials.

Authorities, however, admitted that it was difficult to check all the online activities. “It is impossible to monitor all the social networking sites. You can use evidence from online sites, but why go to that extreme? The children are on your campus, their behaviour on campus is what you should be concerned about,” Srinivasan said.

“At the hostel, dorm wardens conduct room checks every hour,” Chenraj Jain, chairman, Jain Group of Institutions, said. “We don’t police the students. Instead, we adopt a more holistic approach,” he said.

The grey area

The International School Bangalore (TISB) said it had expelled the 14 students after collecting “enough evidence”
from social networking sites about their inappropriate behaviour. The question is: does online content have
legal validity?

Experts believe it falls in the grey area. “India does not have any specific law that restricts users from joining social networking sites just because they are below a certain age,” Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, said. “Many other countries have such laws,” he said.

“If the pictures said to be posted by the students were legal (devoid of vulgarity) and were just posted on a personal profile and not on a college group, then the school was not right in expelling them,” he said. “Students are entitled to privacy and schools shouldn’t be intruding into their privacy. If the school had used snooping software to monitor the students’ online activities, then that is also wrong,” he said. “It’s a different story if one of their classmates had forwarded the pictures to the teacher,” he added.

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