For a while now the VTI School has carried out random checks on pupils’ social media profiles. Police have been alerted to two profiles after the discovery of what are labelled “terrorist posts”.
Local pupil guidance officers have launched a special unit to dialog with all pupils in Aalst schools who display such behaviour. Counsellor Katrien De Feyter: “The idea is to be discrete and to talk with the pupils.”
The daily Het Laatste Nieuws that broke the story believes that the school now intends to screen the social media profiles of all 1,500 pupils.
The school’s communication officer Inge De Troyer: “We are not shirking our social responsibility. This is in the interest of everybody’s safety. If we find further evidence we will alert the police.”
Legally the schools have the powers to do so, but the checks have triggered privacy concerns. Leuven University’s Prof Jos Dumortier does not believe that it’s teachers’ job to check what pupils do online.
“Freedom of expression also goes for youngsters. If somebody needs to check what children do online it should be up to parents. Otherwise I fear for a witch hunt.”
The news that a school had alerted the police to a number of questionable posts by pupils on facebook triggered a wealth of reactions including many negative ones. In the course of Tuesday the VTI School apologised for its actions saying that it should have discussed the matter with pupils first.