North Carolina's Wake County School District Wants to Ban Selfies Because Priorities

There are a lot of pressing issues confronting public high schools in this country — budget cuts, drop out rates, and...selfies? Well, if we're going believe the North Carolina's Wake County school district wants to ban selfies, then yes, selfies are presumably a big problem. If we want to listen to, say, common sense on the other hand...

It's unclear if the proposed Wake County rule change is really intended to target selfies specifically; the possible new rule states that students are prohibited “from taking pictures or videos with any device unless directed by a teacher," but does not mention selfies specifically. However, it seems pretty clear that selfies would be included in that. So I guess that means no more quick snaps of yourself at your locker or pictures of your friends at lunch. Like I said, educational priorities.

To their credit, the Wake County school board seems to have realized that this proposed new policy is a can of worms, and several members have expressed concern for the many implications. “I don’t think we can say you can’t take pictures with your personal phone,” Jim Martin, chairman of the school board policy committee told the News and Observer. “Kids are taking selfies in the lunchroom all the time.”

Another member, Kevin Hill, as thinks enforcement could be a big problem. “Yeah, I’m going to be walking through the stands of a football game to see who is taking selfies,” Hill said.

Even beyond issues of enforcement or the question of whether such a broad rule is even necessary, I'd say there's also an even bigger issue here: whether or not such a rule is even constitutional. While the Wake County school board members who support the rule (or something like it) do make good points about its potential use in bullying cases, Americans have the right to take photographs and video in public spaces. And even though high school can seem like a world unto itself, the Supreme Court has long held that students do not "shed their constitutional rights ... at the schoolhouse gate."

The proliferation of technology has changed things for high schoolers and school administrators, but that doesn't change the fact that students are entitled to the same rights and freedoms that adults enjoy. And while I can see how it would be annoying or disruptive to have students taking photos or videos during class — I will be the first to admit students should not be allowed to use their phones when they should be learning — there's also the fact that students' ability to record things can also be important tools for reporting bullying and harassment, or in reporting inappropriate behavior by teachers and staff. Denying students the right to photograph or record video in many instances means denying them the ability to prove wrongdoing.

Besides the fact that students taking selfies — or taking pictures of most anything during times when they're not in class — is not really a big deal. It certainly isn't something that school boards need to be cracking down on. This isn't just focusing on small problems instead of (or alongside) big problems. This is focusing on non-problems. Meanwhile, more than 15 percent of public high schoolers in North Carolina don't graduate high school. Maybe worry about that.

Image: Giphy