Video – Response to principal who bans social media

Much like the New Jersey librarian who ‘just said no to Wikipedia,’ New Jersey principal Anthony Orsini received national attention for his letter to parents encouraging them to ban Facebook for their children. Here is an excellent rejoinder by Lisa Nielsen:

[Elena Elliniadis, thanks for bringing this to my attention!]

25 Responses to “Video – Response to principal who bans social media”

  1. I hope the creator of the video spell checks “penalize” and re-uploads before it really goes viral.

  2. Scott, thanks for sharing this video rebuttal. I love the idea of bringing my thoughts to life this way as opposed to the proverbial screaming at a deaf TV.

    @Hugh McNally, sadly there is no spell check in my lowly windows movie maker and the thought of re-cutting this is less then appealing 🙁 Perhaps I will go ahead and do so though.

    Ahhh…to have a professional editor. One could only dream. Until then such is the life of layman publishing in the 21st century.

  3. I’ll start off with, “I like the sentiment of your piece” because the remainder is cranky sounding…

    I should have said, “corrects the spelling of,” but of course I didn’t mean “runs spell check on.” A critical media piece like this produced by an educator cannot have a spelling mistake, especially when that mistake resembles a non-existent word based on the real word “penile.”

    Stop blaming the tool and do the work: fix the title, re-render, re-upload. Should take 10 minutes (you saved the Movie Maker project file, right?). The life of the layman who publishes in using 21st century tools includes taking full responsibility for the content s/he produces.

    • @Hugh McNally,
      I think you may find this post about typos of those who publish frequently of interest: “Writing without typos is totally outdated” ( ). My guess is you’ll disagree with the post, but I publish nearly daily and the reality is that every time I look back at a piece I always see things that I want to revise or edit. Sometimes I do spend time on that, but sometimes other priorities win out.

      I am not blaming the tool. I take full responsibility for the fact that sometimes I have typos. Sometimes the New York Times does too and they have professionals who’s only job is to ensure that doesn’t happen…but we’re humans and it’s even more apparent for those like me who don’t have staff to edit their work. That said, I appreciate the push and will indeed try to find time this weekend to make the update.

    • Hugh said,

      “The life of the layman who publishes in using 21st century tools includes taking full responsibility for the content s/he produces.”

      Please fix this sentence before you point out any more typos.

  4. I’m a member of the school board where this principal works. Talking with members of our community about social media, 2.0 tools, etc. Would love to get a transcript of the text roll for this video, is that possible? Thanks. @lauriegood1

  5. @ Laurie Goodman, I’m glad you’re interested in sharing the other side of the issue with community members. I don’t have a transcript of the video as I just watched it and typed my thoughts right into MovieMaker, but what I do have are a few blog posts I wrote on the topic that you can share with your community/school board members.

    Principal who used to block, now offers guidance to skeptical admins in social media use

    Video Rebuttal to Educational Leaders and Parents On The Social Media Ban Wagon

    Using Facebook with Students Becomes A Global Conversation via CNN

    I’d love to hear how things go.

  6. It strikes me as arrogant to presume that schools administrators know best here (I’m not even sure ADULTS know best here)! I’d be surprised if this Principal’s opinion was informed by meaningful conversations with actual students.

    BTW – It’s an unfortunate irony that, as YouTube hosted content, this video is also blocked by most schools. Wouldn’t it be a terrific topic for student discussions of technology, modern communication and social responsibility.

    • Matt, I agree. Conversations with students and their families is the often overlooked piece!

      I also believe it’s a shame that schools block one of the world’s most powerful teaching tools…YouTube. Hopefully one day students won’t have to leave school to harness the power of technology to learn effectively, connect, and interact.

  7. I was alarmed and dismayed when I heard about this. As a middle school principal in a very similar area to Ridgewood, NJ – it is unconscionable to me that a principal would promote such a narrow-minded and short-sighted “solution” to what may be a genuine problem. As a parent and an educator I feel very strongly that this is NOT the type of person who should be leading a school – anywhere!!

  8. I’m curious how you feel about schools that will unblock YouTube if requested for a specific assignment or activity. It seems from my research that this is fairly common. For example, if a teacher did want to have a discussion about this particular video, the teacher could get it unblocked and share with the class.

    Just curious if that’s how it is in your schools? Or is there a different process? Thanks.

    Laurie Goodman (Member, Ridgewood Board of Ed)

    • Hi Laurie,

      I taught for three years in a school in Central Harlem and I had NO filters for a Pre-K – 8 population. Why? Because, I feel it’s important to prepare students for success in the world in which they live. I had VERY few issues. We knew what to do if we stumbled upon inappropriate information…a valuable skill to instill in kids with adults present.

      Innovative school districts empower schools to have the ability to unblock sites. Even more innovative districts empower classroom teachers.

      Making a blanket policy of blocking one of the most powerful learning sites of the 21st century is not in the best interest of our children. Schools who know better should be empowered to do better.

  9. This is a typical response by schools: 1 or 2% of the students act inappropriately so the school banns ALL.
    This is again alienates students from the one place they need to be, both emotionally and intellectually for guidance, i.e., the school community.
    Too bad more thought wasn’t put into this decision.

  10. I am also a Principal and I totally agree with this Principal. To say that you should teach them to use the social network responsibly is a nice thought but if you have experience with kids this age you would know that that is not feasible. There is a lot of social pressure at this age on kids and facebook adds to this pressure. See for discussions on this topic.

    • Arnold, many of us do have experience with kids this age. For example, I used to teach 8th grade history in a housing project middle school in Charlotte, North Carolina. We are more optimistic than you that students this age can be responsible. We see responsible behavior – both online and offline – by these students every day and so do you. Just because some kids struggle with this doesn’t mean all will. I wish your students had a principal that believed more in them rather than thinking that they have no possibility of being responsible. You get what you expect…

      • I have been working with teens for over twenty five years. I give my
        students lots of trust and responsibility in many areas and they
        thrive and learn to be mature adults. However in this area I have seen
        too many disasters. I am not only speaking about my students. Read the
        studies! We have given away the youth of these children and made them
        deal with adult issues too soon. There are adults who are abusing
        facebook and twitter etc. and some are addicted to it.
        I respect your opinion and we will have to agree to disagree.

        • Hi Arnold,

          I think “the studies” show that whatever problems accompany these online spaces, they’re almost always extensions of what’s happening in face-to-face communication. In other words, it’s not the tools – after all, they’re just communication mediums like telephones, paper, etc. – but the students. If students are struggling with issues, those issues manifest themselves in both face-to-face and online environments. Similarly, if we can help students thrive and learn to be mature adults in face-to-face settings, there’s no reason we can’t do the same in online settings, no?

          You say that we have ‘given away the youth’ of our children. Our children spend a much longer extended adolescence than they did at any time before the early 1900s, before which our ‘children’ were essentially treated as adults and put to work, married off, etc. in their early teens. This phenomenon of adolescence – and our expectations and notions about it – is pretty new historically.

          I guess the biggest problem I have is with the notion of a blanket ban (i.e., all kids this age can’t handle it). In other areas of student life / discipline – including bullying, cheating, harassing, inappropriate speech or conduct, and so on – we assume most students will behave appropriately and then deal with the many fewer that don’t. Why wouldn’t we do that in this arena instead of a blanket prohibition?

          Thanks for the note and the conversation. Much appreciated.

    • Arnold, I wrote a popular post about a teacher who uses Facebook with her first graders ( The story was recently picked up by the teacher’s local ABC News affiliate and then by CNN. This teacher has opened the doors for her students connecting building the home-school connection through the safe use of social media.

      What I fear is the top down mandates that the principal here (and you) propose, squelch the creativity and expertise of teachers who often have thought of ways to harness the power of technology to enrich learning in ways that administrators may not be aware of or understand.

      Rather than ban, I suggest considering empowering educators to make responsible choices in the best interests of their students. In the case of this teacher, and now many others, that means using Facebook in primary school.

      You can watch the CNN piece here

      • The story on CNN is about a teacher using facebook to communicate to parents. It shows the kids the positive uses. 100% I agree, my issue is that pre-teens and teens are using facebook on their own and inappropriately.

    • I have worked with teenagers for 20 years and am raising my own. I am currently in graduate school to becomer a principal. Nobody learns to be successful at anything without practice. To create responsible young citizens we have to give them responsibilities. Monitoring is critical, both in school and at home. Taking away expectations for responsible behavior only encourages a society of blaming others for our shortcomings. Will all teachers and parents monitor, no. We should, as leaders, provide opportunities for these adults to practice responsible behavior as well. Blame the tool? I think not, we’ll be back to burning books if this kind of attitude is fostered. Our citizens value their freedom. Even the freedom to make mistakes. Learning to take personal responsibility is a process with all of the pitfalls of learning to anything well.

  11. I agree with Scott that a “blanket ban” does not work. Last year my school attempted to block Facebook for a day. My students were so interested in why it could possibly be banned, so they just went to the bathrooms and cafeteria during passing time to pull out their cell phones to log onto Facebook to find out what was happening. Good moral behavior doesn’t happen because we force children to comply, it happens when we teach them right from wrong.

    As educators, we have the hands-on experience to know that banning social networks won’t stop anything. Let’s be completely honest about the situation, as soon as we tell children that they are not allowed to do something, they want to do it. Students of today can break any firewall we put up. The second I tell my students that a book we are about to read has previously been banned somewhere in the world, they want to read it. The issue is not about taking things away; it is about teaching right and wrong.

    • Does that mean that children should have access to anything that adults do since “blanket ban” doesn’t work? Shouldn’t there be areas of life that we deem inappropriate for teens? If so then this is part of a bigger conversation like legalizing smoking or drinking at any age.

  12. It is naive to think there isn’t alcohol and drug abuse in schools already, middle schools included. These issues exist all around us and one of our jobs as educators is to teach students what to do when they get into these situations. If we teach them how to be responsible digital citizens, we give them the tools to be successful when adults are no longer standing over their shoulders.

  13. Dana , of course I am aware of the abuse issues. We conduct sessions with our students regarding drugs and drinking to educate them and to understand the issue snot just to say no. My point was that there are things that young people are not ready for and will come to cause them harm easily than adults. That is why I agree with a ban on facebook for young kids. I would also say that it obviously depends on the school and the community. In a small private school a ban may be understood and enforceable, in a large school it is not realistic.
    Thank you for the conversation

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