Can a Teacher’s (or Parent’s) Democratic Right to Know Ever over-Ride a Child’s Right to Privacy?

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Can a teacher’s (or parent’s) democratic right to know ever over-ride a child’s right to privacy?

Fundamental to democracy is the right of the people to know. Democracy dictates that all citizens have a right to be fully informed, and thus have a right to know - this applies equally to children as to adults. However, counterbalancing the democratic right to know is the right to privacy. It is here that conflict arises – at what stage does the right to know override the right to privacy? The concept of privacy needs to be considered in five key areas – bodily observation (what we observe of others), bodily space (that which concerns our personal body), property (that which we own), information (documented and undocumented about ourselves) and thoughts and communication (personal thoughts and feelings). Each of these key areas has levels of privacy invasion acceptable to society. For example, bodily space invasion may be permitted when assisting those who are physically unable to perform a task by themselves. Privacy is something we value and may take for granted; however, there are occasions when an invasion of privacy may be justified. If privacy is to be breached, there must be compelling evidentially based reasons (legal, moral or prudential) for doing so. For example – parents have a vested interest in their children’s education, and in how they are performing. Information shared by the school with the parents regarding how their child is performing can assist parents to best support their child’s educational development. This is a clear, but very justified, breach of the child’s privacy. Another justifiable breach of privacy is when there is a clear palpable health risk to others, such as students being exposed to contagious diseases. Breach of privacy in this instance means that parents and the community can take the appropriate steps to contain and eliminate the problem. Thoughts, feelings and communication are areas of privacy linked to...
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