Dear Families and Students:
As a community, we need to be consistently vigilant about student safety. Without it, students can’t learn or grow as they should. Recently we’ve had increasing reports of social media sites featuring posts ranging from harmful rumors to cyberbullying to hate speech involving our students. As a District we care about the safety of our students and do not turn a blind eye to their concerns or complaints. However, we all have a role to play in addressing our modern version of the schoolyard bully.
The District does not review or monitor student social media activity. However, if we are informed of content that harasses, threatens or intimidates students and is related to a school activity or school attendance, we contact the social media site and push for removal of the offensive material. Students and families can do the same. At times this work feels like a game of “whack-a-mole,” as soon as one site goes down another goes up. And this does not change culture or behavior.
We encourage students, to the extent they feel comfortable, to be upstanders and defenders. It’s not easy, but one courageous voice emboldens others to work to change the culture online.
Students can and should report incidents of bullying and harassment to their school administrators. The District uses the Anonymous Alerts anti-bullying and safety app reporting system to help combat bullying and other negative activity in schools by empowering students to speak up. Social and peer pressure are some of the hardest obstacles for students to overcome, so we offer this option as a way for students to report issues anonymously. Information can be found on our website.
Students can also file a Title IX complaint. Title IX is a federal law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. This includes harassment, intimidation and bullying because of actual or perceived disability, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race, ethnicity, color, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, age, marital or parental status, or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. Additional information about Title IX including information about how to file a Title IX complaint is available on our website.
Two more thoughts. First, while we see many of our students’ actions, there’s an often hidden life they lead around relationships, gossip, and social interactions that we don’t see. Social media can amplify and distort many emotions our students can feel. Students spending an inordinate amount of time on social media are the most at risk. With my own children, it often took some prodding and perceived nosiness to learn about these experiences, but the results made “invading their privacy” worth the scorn I received.
Finally, it has always been the case that those spewing hate to others have their own pain and suffering. They are often victims as well as perpetrators. We are eager to help these students. Our community is safer when we can identify and help alleviate all those who struggle.
On we go, dedicated to a safe community when we work together.
Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.