A technical school in Alost, Eastern Flanders, reported two of its pupils to police after seeing messages praising the terrorist actions of the Islamic State (IS) on their Facebook profiles. The school then decided to examine the Facebook pages of all its pupils, reported the Het Laaste Nieuws on Tuesday. The Vrij Technische Instituut (VIT) in Alost started looking at the Facebook pages of just a few of its pupils. Staff found messages it thought were “alarming” on them. It therefore decided to check the Facebook pages of all the 1,500 pupils at the school. “It’s for everyone’s security. It we find more hateful messages, we will again report them to the police”, said Inge De Troyer, who is in charge of communication at VTI.
Legally, this kind of screening is allowed by schools. But, according to privacy experts, it raises questions. According to Professor Jos Dumortier (KUL), it’s not a teacher’s place to supervise what their pupils say online. “It’s a parent’s role to check that. I’m worried about a witch-hunt”.
After being contacted by the Belga agency, the Alost mayor Christoph D’Haese (New Flemish Alliance) said he thought it was “a normal and healthy social check”. “Parents and teachers are the antennae of our society. It’s their job to report deviant behavior. This school must not be stigmatized. On the contrary, it should be congratulated”. According to him, the privacy debate is used as a way to “falsify” the discussion.
Jonadav Apelblat (source: Belga)
Business and Technology Editor
The Brussels Times