Is Big Brother watching you? Some feel new student conduct policy goes too far - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Is Big Brother watching you? Some feel new student conduct policy goes too far


by Bryan Goettel

KWWL - The Des Moines school district has voted to change its student conduct policy. The new policy allows the school to use the internet to catch students breaking rules.

The Des Moines school district is one of the first, if not the first Iowa school with this policy. It applies to athletes and others in activities at all times.

Drinking breaks the rules even if the student is in a country where it's legal, or if they have parental permission.

Also Des Moines schools will actively check social networking sites, including facebook and myspace.  School officials will investigate online for students violating the code.

To some, it harkens back to George Orwell's novel "1984." The book became famous for its phrase "Big Brother is watching you" as everyone in society is under constant surveillance.  Many in iowa City say they aren't looking for this kind of authority.

For Iowa City high school students involved in extra-curricular activities, the conduct code is pretty straightforward. Get busted by police for alcohol or drugs and you're sitting out for at least a few weeks.

"I think the ones at West are pretty fair," Iowa City West junior Ryan Brennan said. "You get caught once, you're out for a third of the season. I think it definitely is a deterrant."

But some members of the Des Moines school board think that's not enough. They're proposing changes to the conduct code that include allowing monitoring of social networking sites like facebook and myspace for evidence of misbehavior.

"I think that's just terrible," Iowa City West junior Jeff Kemp said. "I mean facebook and myspace, all that stuff isn't something that should be involved in school."

Fellow junior Matan Nadler agreed. "Not everything that goes on outside of school should have stuff to do with school," Nadler said.

No surprise where the students stand. But they're not alone.

"I think that could become a nightmare for administrators," Iowa City school board member Jan Leff said.

Lefff agrees with many others that this is going too far.

"I think it could become a real issue of equity," Leff said. "Some kids are gonna get caught. Some are not. Some are gonna get punished. Some are not."

"I would think you have to have something that you can enforce and to me I think it would be very difficult to enforce some of the things that they're proposing," Iowa City West athletic director Marv Reiland said.

Leff says she doesn't foresee Iowa City moving in this direction. Some students feel even if they do, it still won't eliminate the problem.

"You can make policies as strict as you want, but some kids always going to want to rebel. That's just teenage angst," Brennan said.

The proposal passed unanimously with a 6-0 vote.

Online Reporter: Bryan Goettel

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