Friday, February 22, 2008

Orlando Schools Sue Parent for Blog Postings

Orlando schools have been a victim of the information age. In a recent news item, it was revealed that the New School of Orlando is suing a parent for comments posted on the parent's blog about her daughter's treatment while attending kindergarten there. The school is alleging that the parent's statements caused enrollment to drop and that the school should be compensated for damage to its reputation. This one case raises the questions of how personal opinions on the Orlando schools can and should be shared.

Can One Person's Blog Make a Difference at Orlando Schools?

If enrollment at this school dropped because of statements made by this parent, how can the school prove it? Or how could any Orlando schools if it happened to them? It's almost impossible to track how and why parents choose to enroll or pull their children from various Orlando schools. But the pressing question is really whether parents should be prohibited from sharing opinions of Orlando schools online.

By its very nature, a blog is someone's personal observations and opinions posted on a website. Please note that I said "personal." I have no way of knowing if what this parent posted on her blog was true or not. But she believed it. I would hope that no child attending the Orlando schools would be treated with a lack of respect, as was stated on the blog in question. I also hope that no person working at the Orlando schools would think it was appropriate in any way to threaten a parent who had something to say about the school that officials didn't agree with. But reality is that when you have as many families in an area as there are in Orlando schools, someone's going to be unhappy.

Freedom of Speech and Orlando Schools

One idea is that students at Orlando schools (and elsewhere) have the freedom of speech to express their opinions. They should also be discussing the concept of censorship and at what point it is appropriate to tell someone that they can't express their opinion, or if this is ever appropriate.

If what this parent wrote in her blog is not simply giving her opinion about her child's treatment at this Orlando school and her allegations are true, then shouldn't the public be informed of these facts? The institution involved in this case was a private school not part of the public Orlando schools. Yet whether she is or not, her opinion may be helpful to other parents, and my even force Orlando schools to improve.

I don't know whether this blog simply listed this parent's experience with the school or whether she actively discouraged other parents from enrolling their children at this particular school. Maybe she lambasted Orlando schools in general. No matter what, she has a right to her opinion. And as an Orlando schools parent, I want to know what other parents have to say.

Other parents may send their children to this same Orlando school and be quite happy with how the place is run. This woman has the right to express her opinion about any topic she chooses, whether online or elsewhere. Anything else is censorship and has no place in a democracy.

Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. For more information please visit Orange County Florida Public Schools

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