Sunday, March 25, 2007

Detroit News Online

Catholic school bans pupils from MySpace

Shawn D. Lewis / The Detroit News

BLOOMFIELD HILLS -- Students at a suburban Catholic school are being ordered to take down their photos, snappy comments, or anything else they may have posted on

Friday is the deadline for students at St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic School to follow orders or risk suspension. School Principal Sister Margaret Van Velzen sent letters home to parents this week saying, in part, that if families allow children to continue their sites, they will not be allowed to return to school. The school plans to use its computer-savvy staff members to monitor the site for student activity.The principal declined comment, but St. Hugo office manager Judy Martinek said the principal just wants to keep the students safe.

"We've stated our position and we hope all students are in the process of taking down their sites by tomorrow," said Martinek.

MySpace describes itself as a free online community that allows users to share information about themselves and people in their lives. The minimum age for use is 14, but some teens have run into trouble posting on the site, including Katherine Lester, the Michigan girl who flew to the Middle East to be with a 20-year-old man she met on MySpace.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard hails the school's decision.

"By taking a proactive approach, it eliminates the biggest factor, which is peer pressure," he said.

Jerry Herron, Wayne State University professor of American Studies, thinks keeping kids off the site may just offer a false sense of security.

"They may heave a sigh of relief and think maybe this problem will be solved, but a predator who wants to violate children will find a way, electronically or otherwise, sadly," he said.

Joanne Walle of Troy agrees with the school's decision.

"I absolutely, unequivocally agree," said Walle, who has a fourth-grader and an eighth-grader at the school. "My children have never had a MySpace page. There's too much out there."