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Schools Monitor Student-Athletes' Tweets for Inappropriate Language

A number of colleges and universities in recent years have signed up for monitoring services that help keep an eye on their student-athletes' social media accounts.

You can now add the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville to that list, according to an article published Monday in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Both schools have flagged roughly 400 words—anything from "agent" (at Kentucky) to alcohol and drug references (at both schools). To participate in sports at both schools, student-athletes must agree to allow the monitoring service access to their social media accounts, according to the paper.

If one of the flagged words appears on a student-athlete's individual social media account, his or her coach receives an email from the monitoring service. As ESPN's DJ Gallo notes, however, such a service may be too little, too late, when it only takes a few minutes and a few hundred retweets for something to go uncontrollably viral.

At Louisville, each individual coach decides whether or not to use the software, the school's senior associate athletic director told the Courier-Journal. The school's men's basketball team and football team don't yet make use of the monitoring service.

Beyond Louisville and Kentucky, other colleges and universities utilizing similar services include Villanova University, the University of North Carolina, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Nebraska, according to an ESPN.com article from May.

While I haven't yet heard of a high school monitoring students' social media activity, based on what we've seen at the high school level this year, that may not be far from becoming a reality.

Earlier this year, a highly ranked football recruit from New Jersey was expelled for vulgar tweets that appeared on his account. Despite allegedly losing a scholarship offer from the University of Michigan over the incident, he committed to attending the University of Colorado soon thereafter.

Back in May, five Mass. high school students were suspended from school sports and other extracurricular activities after sending out a slew of racially derogatory tweets targeting an African-American player on the NHL's Boston Bruins.

Critics of social monitoring services allege that such programs infringe upon students' First Amendment rights.

In a USA Today column earlier this year, Ken Paulson, the president and CEO of the Nashville-based First Amendment Center, said, "Coaches who impose blanket bans or chill players' speech by watching everything they post are not doing their athletes any favors." Instead, Paulson suggests educating the student-athletes on ways to intelligently use social media.

On a related note: The California state Senate sent a measure to Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday that would prevent both public and private colleges and universities from requesting access to students' social media accounts, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The bill would also prevent schools from punishing students who refuse to grant access to their personal social media accounts, even though, if this bill passes, schools would be violating the law by doing so.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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