Whither freedom of speech?

Apparently Catholic high school students in Sparta, New Jersey, aren’t allowed to blog:

The Reverend Kieran McHugh stunned the 900 students of the private Pope John XXIII Regional High School at a recent assembly when he told them that, effective immediately, they would have to dismantle their personal pages on sites such as MySpace.com and Xanga.com and any other blogs, or face suspension.

McHugh said he was taking the unusual measure to protect students from online sexual predators who may be lurking in cyberspace looking for personal information on children, including their pictures, diaries and gossip, according to a report in New Jersey’s The Daily Record newspaper.

A comment from the principal suggests that the reason is more than just to protect students from sexual predators:

“I don’t see this as censorship,” McHugh told the Record. “I believe we are teaching common civility, courtesy and respect.”

Kevin Bankston, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, had this to say:

“If you look at the policy itself,” said Bankston, “it’s not preventing children from releasing personal information in a way that might be harmful to them. It’s trying to restrict information related to the school and its staff on the Internet, including private communication, like e-mail. So it’s a blanket ban on discussing school at all using the most common modern medium for discussion of things.”