Judge reminds students of social media perils during Law Academy

Judge reminds students of social media perils during Law Academy


If a student teacher posts a drunken party picture on Facebook and a parent complains to the principal, should the teacher be removed from the classroom?

Thomas Stone High School students participating in a Civics and Law Academy on Tuesday, Dec. 2 unanimously voted no, but then had to defend their decision to Judge Pamila Brown, a Howard County District Court Judge. The judge was part of an educational panel of state and local judges and attorneys who volunteered to lead students in discussion about Constitutional rights, the law and justice and free speech. Brown and two local attorneys led a Law in Cyber-age seminar and guided students through a 45-minute conversation about free speech, its possible consequences and the privacy of social media.

Those suggestive photos you post on social media today, Brown told the students, could reappear when you are 38 and ruin your career. “You may think you are sharing it with the love of your life today, but that love may share it with others tomorrow. It never goes away,” Brown said. She cited a case of a 28-year-old television anchorwoman who was fired after spring break pictures taken when she was 21 surfaced. She had signed a contract with a morals clause, and the station was within its rights to dismiss her, Brown said.

The judge also talked about the 18-year-old man who was charged with possessing child pornography when a nude photo of his 16-year-old girlfriend was found on his phone. “He is forever and a day registered as a sex offender,” Brown said. She advised students to use the great-grandmother rule to navigate safely on social media. “Is this a picture or text you would want her to see? If not, don’t post or send it,” she said.

Brown and her Charles County colleagues said they want to make sure students think about Civics, get engaged in their society and think about social media traps that could have far-reaching impact on their lives.

The Maryland Judiciary, the Maryland Bar Association and the Citizenship Law-Related Education Program for the Schools of Maryland sponsor the Maryland Civics and Law Academy. It is designed to promote public understanding of the courts and justice and to engage high school students in learning about the law and society. The purpose is to further prepare young people to be positive, proactive participants in democracy. Charles County was the 14th county to host the academy through a partnership with the Charles County Bar Association and Charles County Public Schools. Allison Heurich, president of the Charles County Bar Association, said she hopes the local association can replicate the program at another high school next year.

Andrew Hill, a Stone sophomore, said he learned more about what to not post on social media. Hill said he is already careful with his online profile, but after attending the seminar, “I’ll make sure I am even more careful.”

Nearly 120 students attended the seminar and selected two sessions, which included Rights and Responsibilities, Law and Justice, Free Speech, School Speech and Protected Speech, Power and Empowerment and Law in a Cyber-age.

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,500 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

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