13 May 2011

A Matter of CHILDREN'S Privacy

***Note: Although the rights of children are advocated by the American Library Association, this post is my opinion on a specific situation as it relates to a broader issue.***

I currently volunteer in my children's charter school library. I am not the crew lead but just a lowly volunteer, at least, that's how our crew lead tends to make us feel. Her only qualification, she was crew lead first and has been volunteering in the library since the school was formed 3 years ago. I've been there for two and am a current graduate student in Library Science. This by no means makes me more qualified but rather when I am learning things, I like to share, and I like to have those thoughts acknowledged. Not everything needs to be implemented, but there are certain issues that really get under my craw and the worst is that most of the parents on the crew just don't see the point. The one issue that really bothers me is the rights of children to privacy.

Regardless of what most parent's seem to think, children do have a right to privacy. They are citizens of the U.S. from birth and are thereby endowed with the same constitutional rights of all us adults. As I watch interactions with parents and their kids, even with myself and my own, I notice, we haven't grown up all that much--we've just aged. What I mean by this is: when we were kids we knew we knew more than our parents and as adults we know we know more than our kids.

In this particular situation, I brought up the fact that having a list of all overdue books displayed on the door to the library was a violation of children's privacy laws. I was pretty much dismissed. I was told several things: (1) parent's like to be able to just glance at the door and know if their kids have things overdue (2) we are a small school so it doesn't matter (3) we don't have books on teen pregnancy and stuff so it's not important (4) we just won't put your kids' names on it.  To say I was pissed by this response would be putting it mildly.

(1)  Parent's like to be able to just glance at the door and know if their kids have things overdue.
  Yes, I know, it's so hard to open the library doors, walk 5 feet, and ask the librarian to check on your kids' status!!! However, this issue is not about what parent's want or like!! This is about the children's right not to have what they are currently reading broadcasted to everyone and anyone who reads the list. It's about their right to privacy, not what is more convenient for their parents.

(2) We are a small school so it doesn't matter.
  Whether you have 200 or 2000 students, privacy matters. It doesn't matter how many students are in a school, each and every child has a right to their privacy.

(3) We don't have books on teen pregnancy and stuff so it's not important.
  It doesn't matter what you are reading, some kids can find things to make fun of. Perhaps a boy is reading Twilight or a girl really loves Hardy Boys. Sometimes the least innocuous books can still be fodder for making fun.  Kid's can be mean, and there is no need to add another thing to their plate.  As for books on "teen pregnancy and stuff" we should have those books!! I know, I know, this is Utah and the school only goes up to 9th grade, so these kids don't need to read about sex, pregnancy, drugs, or abuse because it does not happen here. I wanted to smack someone!!! This is not a private LDS school and even if it was, those LDS parents who live in a fantasy world of "my child will not have sex, do drugs, drink alcohol, or ever be abused" are really kidding themselves. The notion that if a child reads about something, they are more likely to do it is absolutely ridiculous. It's those kids that don't get talked to about sex or read about the consequences that are far more likely to get into trouble. Someone please pop the bubble before I have to throw some people up against a wall!! I know, I'm a little violent. Truth is, I would never hurt anyone, but expressing that anger sure helps my heart not feel like it's going to explode.

(4) We just won't put your kids on the list.
  Totally a moot point!! My kids generally don't have late books. Why? I'm nowhere near being a perfect parent, but I do make sure I know when my kids have library and I take the two seconds to remind them to put their library books in their backpack on those days before school. We are all busy parents, I accept that. I have to round up 4 small kids each morning and it is stressful, but it's no excuse not to take a moment and know what your kids are reading and when they are due.

Children are seen as not knowing what is best for them so of course we adults need to protect them. For one moment, I'm just asking you to look at it from their point of view. And also, you are an adult now but there is always someone older or in a position above you--do they have a right to tell you what to read and what is best for you? No!! We have all been given a mind. The best way to help a child is to talk with them, not a blanket "I'm the adult and I know what is best for you." That line never got a parent anywhere!!


Burrowing In said...

I love the point about the small school and feel moved to expand on your point. The fact that it isn't a large school probably makes it ALL THE MORE IMPORTANT to protect the children's privacy! I went to a small school where everyone knew each other...and knew everyone's business all the time. Seems to me it would be that much easier in a small school to have big problems with even the tiniest bit of information to fuel a fire.

Ms. Yingling said...

This is hard in a school. I don't post lists, but I do have sign out cards in the books, because the computer doesn't always register the books. I tell children that if they need to not sign the card, that's okay, but I don't tell them evey time. In theory, parents shouldn't be able to check at all. Interesting discussion.