Sealing Off Central High: Social Media Policy in Schools

Snapshot: A group of teachers and administrators grapple with how to discipline a student who posted a nasty meme on a classmates social media feed. Should sharing a violent meme be treated differently than other violent speech?


Case Description: Social media has become an essential element of the communication landscape. For both young and old alike, the advent of social media has ushered in new norms for communication - among other things, we’re all on our smartphones all the time! Among young people, in particular, communication through social media has produced a proliferation of ways to communicate, including texts, posts, and likes.

“SEALing Off Central High” focuses on the challenge that the sharing of memes facilitated by social media sites like Facebook creates challenges for teachers and administrators who seek to cultivate a culture of respectful communication on campus. The case centers on a group of school administrators who must react to a threatening meme shared between students on Facebook. Together, they must decide whether or not memes come with their own rules for interpretation and how to understand the distinction between on-campus and off-campus speech in the internet age.

"SEALing Off Central High" can help structure a discussion among school leaders who want to discuss how to react to the new forms and modes of communication among their students. Groups may want to use the “case study discussion protocol” to guide their conversation about this case.