Day after a private school in Delhi said that it has formulated a social media policy for students and guardian, a parents' body wrote to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt Governor Anil Baijal expressing displeasure over the move. Opposing the social media policy of Bal Bharati Public School at Ganga Ram Hospital Marg (GRHM) in Delhi, the Delhi Parents Association headed by Aparajita Gautam as President and Manoj Kumar Sharma as Vice President said this kind of control is “threatening.”
The office bearers, after consulting other parents and factoring in their experiences about communicating to school authorities regarding fees and other issues due to the pandemic, complained, “this act of controlling social media posts is violation of Article 10 of the Human Rights ‘Freedom of Expression’ and Articles 19 of the Constitution of India. This is a clear case of threatening.”
Attaching the circular and declaration form in the letter to the CM and LG, the parents requested the authorities to, “take appropriate and legal action against the Bal Bharti School, Ganga Ram Hospital Marg, New Delhi and also set a time-bound inquiry as the school is still violating the order passed by the Education Department regarding the tuition fees."
"They are charging higher fees including annual and development charges,” said the letter.
Countering the Guidelines
The guidelines in the circular said, “School will always try to deal with concerns raised by parents in a professional and appropriate manner and understands that parents may not always realise when they have used social networking sites inappropriately.”
As a first step, the “school will usually discuss the matter with the parent and try to resolve the matter. Also ask the parent to remove the comment posted on the social networking site in question. If the parent refuses to do so and continues to use social networking sites in a manner that the School considers inappropriate, the School will consider taking legal action.”
The parents' body disagreed with these observations by the school administration and said, “parents always try to get in touch with the school via phone and after that they always mail. In case of no reply, they use the next step but never cross the line.”
Defending the parents and students’ right to express, the association of parents based in Delhi wrote, “Parents have every right to express their views. Why is school forcing them to remove comments from social media? How the school has got control upon the individual liberty of parents in using social media.”
The DPA pointed out that schools should not be asking parents to fill the declaration form as the school itself is “violating the law and order passed by the Delhi Education Department in the Covid period.”
The school has warned that breach of policy would lead to a legal route. On this, parents have complained that a school cannot control the individual liberty of parents in using social media. “How does the school define the independence of parents in using social media platforms like YouTube, FB, WhatsApp etc? It's clearly a comment upon the right to privacy of parents in general, and as an individual in particular, that doesn't entitle any institution to restrict him/her towards the use of such platforms,” said the letter.
The DPA points out that there is in any case a declaration that customers of such platform electronically sign before using the platform, subjected under various IT acts, in case of a violation. “No such right has been conferred by the law of the land to any institution to define that. (violation).” In case of any complaints, the individual/institution may get a fair trial under the IT Act.
“Any such communication by the school is not admissible as a legal submission, and may call for prosecution, considering it is an attempt to jeopardize the fundamental right of expression, as defined by our Constitution,” complain the parents.