Opinion: Going on the ‘permanent record’


In the days before the internet, it was a lot easier to forget our past transgressions. As a student in school at the time, we’d be warned if our misbehavior was escalating to the level of the ever-feared “permanent record.” Although it was unclear to most of us what it was, we knew for certain that it must have been critically important to our prospects in life. To have a stain upon it, no matter how trivial, would undoubtedly ruin all hope of prosperity. Undoubtedly, future generations, even our grandchildren, would be dismayed to learn of our delinquency.

As it turned out, it is not entirely certain what this dreaded logbook was. Perhaps it was like Santa’s naughty list – more of a tool for coercion than an actual database. Or maybe it was some dark web force secretly controlling our destinies. Would we have gotten that dream job if only we’d not been caught throwing tater tots in the middle school cafeteria? Regardless, since the advent of social media, everything we’ve done, at least that we or some other person has posted, is there eternally for all to see. The fun that could have been a bit too much at our brother’s wedding will now be seen by the manager considering us for promotion.

Recently, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita launched a website aimed at allowing parents to post concerns about their children’s schools. In turn, the administrators can rebut or address these complaints. Can transparency improve civility, or will allegations of past indiscretions wrongly imply current problems? Should the out-of-context claims be expunged, or does it all go onto the “permanent record?” Can any group look to supposed past transgressions to prove present grievances? And do we have the right to cleanse our own former decisions holding that we are now enlightened?