I posted a video on my principal blog yesterday. It's the music video of the Zimmers singing My Generation. (I like to put a variety of things on the site to keep staff and students interested.)

In the original version of the video (available on YouTube), the video ends with one of the singers giving the finger to the camera. It makes a point, and is actually the punchline of the video. After about an hour, I began to have a nagging thought, "was this appropriate material for a principal to post where students would see it"?

Being a high school, surely my students would NOT be offended by the gesture.

But is it appropriate for THE PRINCIPAL to post it??

I decided to edit the video by cutting it off just before the gesture. So if you were to look at my blog version, it's the G-Rated, rather than PG version of the video. But I must admit, I'm really uncomfortable enaging in ANY type of censoring of content that I post.

Am I wrong?

And precisely what is the role and responsibility of educators when it comes to allowing students access to the web?

What does your school or district do in this area?

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You've got to cover your butt. Remember, as a principal (or I as a teacher) you are the face of the school. I'm in a band with a myspace which students often find (www.myspace.com/defloweredmusic). I censor the site by making sure there are no pictures of me drinking etc. If you think you shouldn't, don't. Sounds like you made the right decision. Like it or not, educators are held to a higher moral standard. For instance, people are frequently arrested for DUI but it doesn't make the 10 o'clock news. If you are a teacher and you get a DUI (especially in a small town) eveyone will know.
Schools engage in censorship everyday in the books they choose for their students' to read or not, the websites they block/unblock, the field trips they send students on, and the speakers they bring in or don't. My first year Ed Foundations prof said that the first purpose of a school is socialization. We teach them not only academics, but society's rules.

Society doesn't allow us to give someone the finger. There are consequences. We might get fired, we might lose a friend, or we might have someone punch us in the nose. A school helps teach us how to behave in society. By editing that video, you said that there are rules to how people deal with each other. Some behaviors are inappropriate.

That seems like a very appropriate message for a principal to send.
Wow! Outstanding points, Gentlemen!

THIS is why input from others in forums like this is so helpful. I "felt" that it was correct to self-censor the video...but I just couldn't put my finger on why. (James, your entire 2nd paragraph is right-on!)

But what about the larger issue of "censoring" or controlling access to the web? What is too much? Should ALL sites be banned? Where is the line drawn...? Should age matter? What are the practicalities of turning a group of kids loose in a computer lab to join blogs and wikis as part of a research project?

We have the start of a great conversation going here....keep it rolling...
Tough questions, Greg. I know when my Grade 7s end up somewhere they're not supposed to be I'm far more likely to pounce on them than if I see the Grade 12s doing the same thing. The younger kids have less maturity and are more likely to make foolish or dangerous choices if I'm not watching closely.

Of course, there are some things I can't allow. I recently learned some of the students were using a search engine to locate music that deliberately searched for blasphemous material. As a Christian school we obviously had to say that regardless of age that was inappropriate. Our core value of showing love and respect for God superseded the students' right to make choices even if they're older, more mature students.

I guess you need to know what the school's core values are. Whatever the community, no matter how liberal and "open minded," some behaviors you absolutely do not do. Most of the rest you can be given a fair amount of wiggle room on.
This whole issue is tricky. I think age appropriateness does have a lot to do with it.

The fact that you sign a contract as an educator does as well and that you are a principal.

Personally, I think that students should have more access than they do at most schools, and that the filtering has gotten too restrictive. Partly I think that because we should be teaching students to "cross the street" (as David Warlick??) said, not just throwing them out on the curb when they leave the schoolhouse doors, and saying figure this out on your own.

I think as educators we have a responsibility to teach students ethical behaviors, how to tell when a website isn't comfortable for them, and how to be safe online. We need to help them practice those skills rather than just "blockIng" everything out.

Districts need to have a policy about this just like they do library materials or classroom materials to help support their choices.

I also think it's important to have a curriculum person or a committee involved in making the decisions about what is allowed in terms of access.
Greg, I teach 16-19yr olds. We run into these issues on a daily basis. I agree with Carolyns point on age appropriateness but also the context, I can offer an example. I use a video of a highly success coach (Rugby World Cup Winner Sir Clive Woodward). In one particular prematch speech is swears openly and quite colourfully. I questioned whether it was appropriate to show my students the video? Yes, absolutely. The video content is inspiring, the language is contextualised and the students do not even comment upon his language it. In every other 'on camera' interview he language and conduct is impecable. We do have a role, one to reveal the truth, to teach them how to think rather than what to think.

As far as the students personal language in class and their posting, it is not permissible and as students progess on the course, they tend to self censor themsleves. Outside of class is another matter all together.
I think you did the right thing. I wouldn't want to risk offending some very conservative parents. I would view your actions as "being sensitive" rather than censoring. Kids are so desensitized to that gesture, I'm certain that they've probably seen the whole version of the video and thought nothing of it. To illustrate how desensitized kids can be, I saw a 7th grader use his middle finger during a prayer service at our school when he was extending his hand in blessing. He has no idea how offended some adults would be. He was just trying to amuse his friends.

It's better to take the safe route. You don't want to alienate parents who have more conservative views. We have to teach students to think about content they post on the web and how it reflects on them as people. You were just being reflective. Good for you!
First, I do think you made the right choice because you trusted your gut. Only you know your school/kids/parents/etc, and you need to make calls you can live with.

As to the larger questions of access, I'm a firm believer in two requirements for a sound filtering policy. First, access must be tiered. We don't put high school appropriate books in elementary schools, or vice versa; however, the current practice in many schools is to filter the internet on a single, most restrictive, standard that is not respectful of or appropriate for developmental differences.

Second, teachers need to the ability to override the filter. This is a simple matter of professionalism; educators are trusted to make appropriate choices with regard to all the materials they bring into their classrooms except for the internet. Ultimately, a form of publication is being filtered outside the judgement of the teacher, which is akin to saying teachers must check with the principal before bringing in a magazine article because Playboy is a magazine.
Greg,

I come from the technology side of the equation, not the teaching side, so hopefully I won't completely be off with my comments. First of all, the fact that you have a web site that you post to and use as part of your campus administration is admirable. If more teachers got into this type of information sharing, there would be less concerns about web filtering and censorship. I do believe that your own judgment in what/how you post is the best. Policies and procedures about postings and appropriate material get too messy.

Which brings me to the second part, which is Internet filtering. I have a small technology shop (3 guys) and we have the duty of filtering Internet content for four school districts. Many teachers don't realize that if we DON'T filter, we could lose our E-Rate $$ for internet access which accounts for 70% of the cost. So we filter. We actually use the white list version of Internet access which means we maintain a list of acceptable sites, and if the site is not on the list, the students cannot visit! The faculty are not filtered in this way, they have almost complete access to any site on the Internet (we block pornographic sites). If the teacher wants to share an Internet resource, it only takes a few minutes to add the site to the list. We've been running this way for a while, and the results are great. No way for the kids to get around the filtering (proxy, USB key browsers, anonymous web surfing sites) because all of the things that they used to try still go through the filtering mechanism, and they can't get to new proxy sites that we don't have listed because they don't exist on our white list.

I would prefer to not filter the Internet at all. Even without the funding problem, I would prefer that the faculty use the Internet properly for education and teach the kids safe and responsible surfing/communication/community on the web. There is, unfortunately, a lack of staff that is available for all the time that the kids have access to the computer labs, so there are many hours during the week that kids have unsupervised time on the Internet. And don't tell me they're doing their homework while there are no adults in the room. I've walked into an unsupervised lab and had 16 screens instantly switch back to spread sheets and research papers.

So we filter. We try to be very timely with unblock requests, and all of them are sent via e-mail, so there is an electronic trail from the moment a site gets blocked to the time we open it and send a response message back to the person who requested it. (Student or staff)

myspace, youtube, most streaming media sites, and most major blogging sites are NOT available if you are a student on my network. The kids get pissy with me sometimes, but I can take it.
I've recently come across the situation in my district where teachers allow students to use THEIR computers to access myspace. One issue is that as a district there is not a use and abuse policy for adults. Also, with recent worms and security risks in social networks, are you worried about faculty accessing some of the blacklisted sites?
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I'd have cut it in a heartbeat. Our responsibility as educators is to serve the community that hires/pays us. I'm guessing if you polled that group you'd find it pretty clear they wouldn't want it.

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