In recent interviews, I’ve talked about the future of online reputation management. In that future, I see a desensitizing towards negative content found online by employers, parents, and schools. In essence, as more and more of us post content online, any embarrassing photo or rude remark will be brushed off, as we learn that we live in a transparent world. As the current generation of 18-24 year olds enter management, they will be more forgiving–having lived through that same era.
Anyway, I expected this transformation of standards to take place slowly and organically. Well, that may change now that two sophomore girls are suing their school district for unfairly disciplining them for risqué photos they posted to MySpace.
The Huffington Post picks up the story:
The girls, identified only by their initials in the suit, took the photos during a sleepover with friends before school started this summer and posted them on their MySpace pages, setting the privacy controls so only those designated as friends could view them…[the Principal] initially suspended both girls from all extracurricular activities for the year but reduced the penalty to 25 percent of fall semester activities after the girls completed three counseling sessions and apologized to the coaches board.
The school wasn’t referenced in any of the MySpace entries, but the school has a policy that allows the Principal to take action against any student that “creates a disruptive influence on the discipline, good order, moral or educational environment” of the school.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has taken interest in this case and filed the suit on behalf of the girls–claiming the action violates their free speech rights and was humiliating. The ACLU will have an uphill battle winning this case, because the US Supreme Court has already ruled that students can be disciplined for activities outside of the school. The unclear part is whether the students’ actions are disruptive or harmful to the school.
We’ll let you know as and when we see updates on this case. My guess is that it will be dropped–maybe with the school expunging the incident from the girls’ records. If not, and the ACLU wins, we may quickly get to the era of online reputation apathy–but by force, not progress.