Wednesday 13 December 2017

School head threatens to expel under-13s with Facebook accounts

Beard said that search will have to 'go social' but admitted that a tie-up between Facebook and its major rival Google would not make good business sense, despite the benefits to consumers. Photo: Getty Images
Beard said that search will have to 'go social' but admitted that a tie-up between Facebook and its major rival Google would not make good business sense, despite the benefits to consumers. Photo: Getty Images

Jonathan Pearlman in Sydney

AN Australian school head teacher has warned parents she will expel students under 13 who do not delete their Facebook accounts.

The threat, an attempt to curb widespread cyber bullying, was issued in a letter to parents by Leonie Hultgren, the principal of Harlaxton State School in Queensland.



“There has been some considerable Facebook traffic that either bullies a child of this school or in some cases denigrates some staff and the school,” she wrote. “Either of these circumstances warrant the school becoming involved.”



Ms Hultgren included instructions to parents on how to report their children as an underage user or disable the account. Under Facebook guidelines, users must be at least 13 to set up an account.



“We have spent the last five years teaching our students about respect, relationships and resilience,” she wrote. “It may seem insignificant to lie about your age to gain access to a social media site but where does it stop? ... Parents, you are your child's first teachers. What do you want them to learn?“



Ms Hultgren said children frequently lied about their age to set up a Facebook account but any students who did so would be expelled if discovered.



“Parents should understand that a student who contravenes the law or rule in a digital scenario may need to meet with the Principal to discuss this issue and their continued enrolment at Harlaxton," she wrote.



The state’s education officials supported the move, saying school principals should discipline students if they used technology inappropriately, whether during school or outside of school hours.



However, lawyers questioned whether schools had the authority to issue a blanket ban on social media.



"'You won't come to our school if you have a Facebook page' seems to me to be extending beyond the realms of the school's ability to dictate what students can and can't do at home," Steven Troeth, a partner at Gadens Lawyers, told Fairfax media.



"But it's understandable that they might want to have some control over it because of the potential to impact on the school."

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