To Post or Not to Post? YouTube Issues Part 2

Despite YouTube’s Popularity with School-Age Youth, Teachers Should Think Twice Before Asking Students to Upload Class Projects to YouTube

In a previous post, we discussed some of the legal issues associated with students uploading coursework on YouTube. This EdLawConnect entry continues that discussion.

Bullying-Related Concerns

Perhaps the most salient concern with students uploading their own video projects to YouTube relates to school districts’ legal obligation to prevent bullying.

Instructing students to publish projects on YouTube could facilitate cyberbullying. For example, a student may create a YouTube account and inappropriately comment on other students’ videos.  A member of the public, over whom a school district has no control, may also inappropriately comment on student work or communicate harmful content to students. Generally, YouTube content and comments are viewable by the public unless the individual user alters account settings. Internet users could harass the individual who posts a YouTube video by commenting with vulgar, racist, or homophobic language. If students use individual YouTube accounts, a school district would have no ability to delete the offending comments or demand they be taken down. The student would thus be exposed to the abusive or unwanted comments until he or she deletes them.

School districts are required to adopt a policy that prohibits bullying and harassment based on various protected characteristics. Districts must also adopt a process for investigating complaints of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying under the uniform complaint procedure. A school district may be in violation of such provisions if its work-product submission methods create easy and unstoppable avenues for anonymous bullying.

Safety Concerns

Videos posted to the Internet also raise general concerns for student safety.  A publicly viewable YouTube page may expose students to members of the public who mean to do them harm

Sexual predators may attempt to communicate with students, or leave sexually explicit comments on student-posted videos. Predators or other criminals may use information from YouTube (such as the student’s name, location, classroom, likeness) to locate the student and cause the student harm. A student harmed in such a way, or the student’s family, may seek to hold the school district liable by claiming arguing it was negligent to encourage students to publicly share their information with the world.

Electronic Listening Devices

If students make video recordings during instructional time in the classroom to upload on YouTube, legal prohibitions on the use of electronic listening devices may also come into play.  Education Code section 51512 prohibits the use of electronic listening devices in a classroom without the prior consent of the teacher and the site principal. While teachers presumably would assign the work, and therefore consent, the teachers and the district must ensure all principals consent to the use of recording devices (such as cellular phones) in classrooms.

Before facilitating or condoning a practice of submitting student work on YouTube, several aspects of that process must be carefully considered. First, students should have adequate alternative avenues for submitting work for credit. Second, students (and their parents/guardians) should be required to complete and submit specific informed-consent forms, and only those students who have submitted such forms should be permitted to upload their work. Third, a school district should consider mechanisms to control viewing options for the work and comment feeds, such as by mandating certain privacy settings and the disabling of comments. Alternatively, a district could utilize its own YouTube account to control comments, keeping in mind potential First Amendment concerns.

 

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