School Punishes Student For Blogging From Home

School 8 Schools across the country are cracking down on student computer use; blocking social sites and proxy servers. Many schools are perfectly within their right to prevent teenagers from frequenting sites like MySpace, Facebook and Xanga while using school hardware. In all actuality, there is no real need for students to be on such social sites at school when it could impede on studying and perhaps pose a danger to the student (internet predators).

Do schools try to reach to far? This article seems to think so, as there is another school – Plainfield School District in Illinois – attempting to reach into the homes of its students and lay the smack down.

A 17-year-old student who posted on his blog site that he was being bullied and threatened by the Plainfield School District will face an expulsion hearing this week, a local attorney said.

Back in November, Pope John XXIII Regional Highschool decided to stretch their rights a little far and reach into the home of their students, threatening suspension to anyone that failed to delete their accounts on various social networking sites. My post – School Bans Social Websites – discusses this school’s attempt at control and has been met with a huge onslaught of student irritation.

Students are generally unhappy with this type of control – as well as the simple blocking of sites that many schools are doing – and are reacting in the only way they can…with their voice. They comment on my blog expressing their opinions (I’ve had 119 comments on that blog post as of this posting and they are still rolling in), they complain on their social sites, they blog. The 17 in this article blogged the following on May 2 (without mentioning the school the student wrote):

“I feel threatened by you, I cant even have a public Web page with out you bullying me and telling me what has to be removed. Where is this freedom of speech that this government is sworn to uphold? … Did you ever stop to think this will start a community backlash? The kids at Columbine did what the did because they were bullied. … In my opinion you are the real threat here. None of us ever put in our xanga’s that they were going to kill or bring harm to any one. We voiced our opinions. You are the real threat here. you are depriving us of our right to learn. now stick that in your pipe and smoke it.”

What are the school districts thinking? It is the parents job to police student’s internet usage at home, NOT the school’s. It doesn’t matter if the school doesn’t like the sites students visit or if a student says something bad about his school…they may be kids but don’t they get some level of free speech? The article states:

Superintendent John Harper, who cannot comment on student cases, said the district will take action if it believes there is a safety issue. Meanwhile a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union said school districts must be careful not to discipline students on matters that occur outside school. The student’s attorney believes Plainfield School District is overstepping its boundaries.

“The district is going to take away the student’s education for exercising his freedom of speech,” said attorney Carl Buck. “I feel like they are trying to control his freedom of speech. … He is saying, ‘You can’t bully people and we have a right to object and you can’t throw people out of school for voicing their opinions.’”

Schools simply need to wake up and smell the coffee. Block social sites at school if its impeding on school work, but don’t threaten and punish the kids for doing things at home. Educate them on the dangers of the internet and educate the families on the need for some policing of internet usage at home. I want schools to teach my kids (when I have them), not parent them.

In closing, here’s a line from the article sums up my opinions:

“It is not a crime to write things on the Internet – though we find them offensive, troubling and disheartening, it is not a crime[.]“

MMORPG Laws

My pal Casey over at MaisonBisson.com has made a follow up post to my MMORPG Cheating post. I figured it warranted me making another post rather than simply replying to his blog. He writes:

Matt says my attempts to analogize online roleplaying games to more familiar contests like chess or automobile racing are “just silly.” But his response appears to reinforce my point rather than refute it. It is the responsibility of the gamers and gaming organizations to create and enforce rules. People violating those rules are subject to sanctions by the gaming organization first, but it’s hard to imagine how any contestant who follows the rules of a (legal) game can be subject to legal sanction.

I spoke with Casey in person this past Saturday about this exact topic (as we have butted heads on it for some time now). We discussed our differing views and gave examples on each side of the table. Casey stated that my arguments for game law should only be handled with some sort of governing body; much like the Scrabble Association, World Chess Federation, etc. After our discussion I have had a slight change of heart…for in-game happenings.

But what happens when someone from the outside world affects the in-game world? In my article “World of Warcrack and the Future of MMOGs” I explain a case when a non-player logged into her boyfriend’s account and deleted his items. What would be the ruling on cases such as those? Would they warrant arresting, fines, etc? Or should they be written off and have the owner of the character be forced to suck it up and spend another 1000+ hours creating and leveling a new character?

If someone that is not a part of NASCAR goes and steals, breaks down, and sells Jeff Gordon’s car…that person will face criminal charges and/or fines from the judicial system. What about Jon Doe who has a level 60 character in World of Warcraft emptied of all its items by a third party and that third party sells said items on E-Bay or through a reseller?

Its another beast altogether. Casey and I have both been wrong and right with our differing viewpoints. What we have been doing is lumping two categories of MMO offenses together. The in-game offenses and the offenses caused by non-game members to the game members. I was generically stating that ALL actions whether in and out may eventually need to be handled from some sort of legislation…and likewise he had lumped all actions together and disagreed saying that it should only be handled by an game-related governing body (the company that produces the game…or an association from multiple MMOs).

I still hold that as MMOGs become more and more popular these two distinct offenses will need to be addressed…but when and how?

(image found at http://www.abetterearth.org)

MMORPG Cheating

My friend Casey over at MaisonBisson posted an article (Wide World of Video Games) where he shoots down the ideas of laws that are being built around MMORPGs and the reasons behind them. I don’t entirely agree with his statement:

One argument is that these games occupy players time and cost money, so in-game theft results in real-life loss. Baloney. Chess and Monopoly occupy great deals of time, but try telling the cops I rooked your knight. Money? A huge number of Americans invest time and money on building and racing cars on the approximately 1800 racetracks around the country. Real time and and hard-earned money are lost when cars crash, but the track has its own rules[...]

First, comparing Chess and Monopoly to MMORPGs is just silly. Yes they are both games, but they aren’t even the same caliber! Thats like saying a helium-filled balloon is the same as a state fair. You can get enjoyment from both a baloon and a state fair, but there is a huge cost difference, a difference in the level of participation by large numbers of people, activities in one that don’t exist in the other, etc.

Secondly, the racecar analogy falls through the roof once a little background info on racing is dug up. Yes, cars cost a crap ton of money to construct, fund, and race and it is expected that you will inevitably break something and/or crash. Its all part of the game. But what happens when that crash is intentionally caused by another player? You see, when once racecar driver causes an accident on purpose, there are repercussions…fines anywhere from $100-10,000 to both the speedway AND the ‘targets of destruction’, suspension, loss of championship points (whatever those are), permanent banning, etc. Check these references if you wish :

In an MMORPG, you purchase and play the game (within the rules) and assume others will do the same. But what happens when someone cheats -using bots, hacks, etc- to best you at something and take your hard earned items? When I say hard earned, those items can have 1000+ hours of play time behind them, 5 months of paying $15/month, etc.

Should there be repercussions for MMORPG cheating? Perhaps. I’m not sold either way but to write it off so quickly is just ludicrous. As MMORPGs grow in popularity and become a larger beast in our society, the world will be faced with larger numbers of people that will want justice for in-game theft, in-game cheating, etc. How will society draw the line and where will we put it?