Title IX and High School Social Media

Social media remains a big thing for high school students. The social media apps that high school students use continue to change. Facebook and Twitter, once social media staples, may be mostly passe. Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok may be in or out. The messaging services that high school students use to reach, inform, inspire, tease, and annoy one another may be various. But the fact remains that high school students continue to immerse themselves in an online world. And while gaming and binging Netflix or other videos may be a large part of a high school student's constant virtual experience, social media remains a significant part of that online world for many high school students.

Every parent and most high school students know that social media has its benefits and drawbacks. Social media can, at its best, build and support strong relationships while inspiring and informing. Social media, at its worst, can foster unhealthy, inward-turning, narcissistic, and dependent personalities. Social media drawbacks for teens include its capability to foster and facilitate cyberbullying, cyberstalking, internet addiction, unrealistic expectations, low self-esteem, social isolation, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. But another hazard of social media for high school students is the risk that its use during school programs and activities will lead to a charge of Title IX violations.

If your high school student faces a Title IX charge alleging cyberbullying, cyberstalking, or other inappropriate social media use, then your student needs an expert Title IX defense attorney. Title IX violations can lead to school suspension or expulsion, putting a black mark on your student's record and reputation. Social media use may seem harmless. In the context of a Title IX charge, it is not harmless but could instead harm your student's future. Retain national Title IX defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm. Call 888.535.3686 or contact attorney Lento online now.

The Most Popular High School Social Media Apps

Parents helping their high school student grow, mature, and navigate life can benefit from knowing the use and capability of popular high school social media apps. Getting a glimpse into your high school student's virtual world can help you advise, guide, and admonish your student toward a better real and virtual life. The most popular social media apps among teenagers include:

  • Snapchat, used by about eighty percent of teens, allows teens to post text, photos, and video that disappear as soon as the posting teen removes the posting touch or remains for up to twenty-four hours before disappearing. Snapchat filters searchable content and facilitates social connections. But Snapchat ranks best friends, encourages posting streaks, can have advertisements unsuitable for teens, enables screenshots of posts teens expect to disappear, and encourages mistaken confidence in the privacy of posts.
  • Instagram allows teens to share photos and videos from mobile devices, including a messaging feature and the ability to like other posts. Instagram can build connections with friends, present positive role models, and support artistic expression. But Instagram does not filter content, permits strangers to direct message teens, can foster unhealthy competition over getting likes, and enables hashtags to lead teens to inappropriate subjects.
  • Tiktok is a social networking service that teens use to post short-form videos of stunts, pranks, dance, and other recreational, entertaining, artistic, and informative activities. Tiktok can foster creative and artistic expression that inspires, challenges, stimulates, and informs teens. But Tiktok also enables teens to post and view inappropriate sexual, violent, risk-taking, and oppressive content. Tiktok guidelines discourage inappropriate content, but Tiktok does not effectively monitor content.

High School Approaches to Social Media Use

High schools have many ways to deliver instruction and foster learning, including the use of various technologies. Social media apps, though, are not popular teaching and learning technologies in high schools. One study indicates that high school teachers make only sporadic use of social media for learning purposes. The study acknowledges what every teacher and parent knows, which is that high school students depend on social media in their daily lives to make connections with other students and to fill their downtime. Despite the prevalence of social media use among high school students, high schools do not generally co-opt social media for instructional purposes. Indeed, the study concludes that to turn high school students' social media use toward learning, high schools would first have to overcome deeply ingrained student attitudes toward how they use social media. A few high schools teach with social media. But high school policies banning social media seem just as popular or more popular.

Title IX Can Reach School-Related Social Media Activity

Whether your student's high school bans social media or instead uses social media to teach doesn't necessarily matter as to the risks of a social-media-based Title IX charge. A high school doesn't have to use social media for instruction, for the high school to base a Title IX charge on inappropriate content in the accused student's social media. Title IX prohibits high schools receiving federal funding from discriminating against students based on sex. Title IX isn't solely about equal rights for both boys and girls, to instruction, athletics, and other school programs and activities. Title IX also requires high schools to discourage, address, correct, and prevent student-on-student sexual harassment. A student who repeatedly sexually propositions, provokes, offends, distracts, disturbs, or annoys another student, creating a severe and pervasive sexually hostile environment, may face the high school's Title IX charge.

Today, with so much learning occurring online and even remotely, Title IX interpretations have made clear that Title IX reaches the online activities of high school students who are participating in high school programs. Title IX and its regulations like 34 CFR Section 106.31(a) apply Title IX protections to events occurring in school programs and activities. Under 34 CFR Section 106.44(a), Title IX protections apply where the high school exercises substantial control over the student and the context in which the alleged Title IX violation occurs. A recent regulatory question-and-answer guide citing a Department of Education Title IX final rule confirms that Title IX violations can even occur on remote learning platforms. Title IX can reach school-related online activities.

The federal case of Rex v. West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, 119 F.Supp.2d 542 (S.D.W.Va. 2015) supplies an example of inappropriate social media use contributing to a Title IX violation. The case involved a college rather than a high school but is still instructive. The complaining student alleged her rape by a fellow student. She then further alleged that other students mocked and ridiculed the alleged rape on social media, creating a hostile educational environment. The federal district court agreed that the student had stated a Title IX claim. Social media activities within an education program or activity that a high school controls can form the basis for a Title IX complaint.

What to Watch for in a Title IX Social Media Case

Title IX does not cover all high school student social media use and misuse. A high school should not allege a Title IX violation when students offend one another with sexual content in activities unrelated to school. To support a Title IX charge, the circumstances must ordinarily include each of the following:

  • The accused student must engage in social media conduct that a reasonable person would regard as severe and pervasive
  • The accused student's conduct must be of a sexual nature, not simply bullying or harassing free of sexual content
  • The accused student's conduct must be under the control of the student's high school within a school education program or activity
  • The victim student must regard the accused student's conduct as hostile and unwelcome rather than invited and participatory
  • The accused student's conduct must create a hostile educational environment that interferes with the victim student's access to educational programs, resources, and benefits
  • The accused student's conduct must have occurred within the applicable time for the complaining witness to have filed a title ix complaint
  • The high school must have known of the conduct or should, in the exercise of reasonable care, have been able to discover the conduct and take responsible action to prevent or correct it

The Limits to a Title IX Social Media Charge

Title IX cases can be exceedingly subtle and complex. Relatively few cases present black-and-white circumstances where violations are clear, the accused student is responsible, and the accused student can show no mitigating circumstances. Even when the Title IX violation is clear, significant questions can remain as to what the high school should do about the violation. Title IX charges based on social media can be even more subtle and complex. Social media use isn't the same as physical, sexual assaults, forced fondling, or other inappropriate sexual touching. Social media use also doesn't generally rise to the same level as in-person sexual propositions, advances, looks, threats, comments, and coercion.

Social media activity is instead virtual, something that students can turn on and turn off. The ability of students to control their social media use, independent of school assignments and requirements, can separate that social media use from any real relationship to a high school's education program or activity. The ability of students to control their social media use can also mean that exposure to another student's sexual messages or content is voluntary, participatory, and welcome. The high school that tries to make a Title IX case against a student based solely on social media use faces an uphill battle.

How to Respond to a Title IX Social Media Charge

If you are the concerned parent of a high school student facing a Title IX charge based in whole or part on social media use, then you should recognize that your student needs expert Title IX defense attorney representation. Title IX findings and discipline can spoil a high school student's dreams, plans, and ambitions. High school students can be at a precarious stage in life. They are still maturing mentally, physically, and emotionally. They also face significant expectations over college education or vocational training, jobs, careers, and marriage or other relationships. A high school student facing Title IX charges needs to have confidence that the student can address the charges responsibly and proactively.

Retaining a skilled and experienced Title IX defense attorney thus does more than give your student the professional help your student needs to obtain an acceptable outcome of the proceeding. Yes, your student needs a Title IX defense attorney to answer the charge, investigate the evidence, prepare a defense, conduct the hearing, and negotiate with school officials for an acceptable compromise resolution that preserves your student's future. But your student also needs to know that your student has your support and the support of other caring individuals. You can do no better for your student than to retain an expert Title IX defense attorney, no matter how serious you and your student regard the Title IX charge. Don't leave your student's future to chance. Get the help your student needs.

Expert Title IX Defense Attorney Available Nationwide

Fortunately, high school students who face Title IX charges and their concerned parents have available to them the expert services of a premier Title IX defense attorney nationwide. National Title IX defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of high school and other students with Title IX defense at schools across the country. Attorney Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm are available to you and your student for Title IX defense nationwide. Don't delay in retaining an expert Title IX defense attorney. Don't leave your high school student's future to chance. Get the expert help your high school student needs. Call 888.535.3686 or contact Attorney Lento online now.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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