Friday, May 13, 2011

Athlete Facebook Troubles in High School

I'm a little surprised that this hasn't happened already -- a Boston suburban high school has suspended 11 athletes for Facebook faux pas. Considering you add illegality to the possession of tobacco (18, sometimes 21) to alcohol issues that sometimes catch college freshmen or sophomores not 21 yet, it becomes wicked simple to do what some "concerned parent" did. Screen capture all the naughtiness you see on like and Church Lady it right over to the school administration on a USB key.

Presented with the evidence, what is a school to do? In the case of Melrose High, enforce things.

How does it come to pass? One clue might be in the coverage when apparently MHS athletes had photos portraying marijuana use, and nothing was done because the photos could not be determined as recent. Lack of action perhaps prompts the citizen's arrest like effort, and this time, based on athletic gear issued, it could be determined the approximate date of the activity.

Yahoo! Sports brought the story to a wider audience in the past day with it's overview coverage by Cameron Smith. Smith writes ominously in his conclusion:

The concern for other athletes across the country will come when and if other administrations begin to monitor social media with the vigor with which Melrose officials have.

Ask yourself the same question. Smith means it for high schools, but it applies to all.

Couple of quotes from the superintendent involved, Joseph Casey.

"We're serious when we say that being an athlete is a privilege, not a right."

"We are not trying to interfere with what happens outside of schools, [but] if you're going to represent the school we expect you to uphold that image 24/7."

The impact of this event in Massachusetts should be to get everyone to revisit policies -- if you have them -- and discuss openly and honestly what will happen not if, but when, someone walks into your department with that USB key. Motivations will range from simply seeking justice to the more Machiavellian of removing rivals for playing time -- both within the team and by opponents.

This shouldn't be seen as just an athletic issue, either. The town of Melrose has the additional hook of a local ordinance that is on the books to go after parents who either provide or condone alcohol or other illegal for teens consumption on their property. The local PD is looking into charges.

The whole world really is watching.

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