Our children today are faced with so many pressures that we, as adults, didn’t experience as students years ago.
In addition to achievement expectations driven by mandates from our state and federal governments, our kids face an electronic world that further complicates the pressures of peers. Whether it is Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter, our kids are constantly barraged with information and new forms of communication. It used to be difficult enough as a student to face name calling or teasing, but today, the medium for such bullying behaviors stretches far beyond the school day.
Oftentimes, we equate teasing as “bullying behavior.” It is important to note bullying is defined as the use of coercion or intimidation to obtain control over another person. Bullying can occur through written, verbal or electronically transmitted expression, or by means of a physical act or gesture. Such behavior results in a student feeling pressured to do things he or she might not otherwise do or feeling threatened by another.
Last week, it came to our attention that multiple Twitter accounts existed – some actually using official school logos – that posted inappropriate and harassing information about students and staff members. We regularly deal with students who are emotionally impacted by crude and inappropriate postings from peers through a variety of social media networks. This is quite challenging in our technologic world today, as tracing the source of such posts can be difficult. The anonymity of such posts in no way lessens the impact felt by students.
As a district, we continue to hold fast to our policy that states a student who engages in any act of bullying or harassment, and/or a student who takes any retaliatory action against a student who reports in good faith an incident of bullying or harassment, is subject to appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including expulsion and possibly a referral to law enforcement. It is incumbent on us as a community to monitor any situation where such behavior could take place. It is critical parents monitor their child’s social media to ensure that they are not subject to or are engaging in such behavior. We are all equally responsible for reporting such concerns to the school, the district or the police, depending on the severity. Once something is posted online, it is impossible to take back.
It is especially sad when a student who is subject to such treatment internalizes the impact of such behaviors and fails to seek help. Too many teens have taken their own lives as a result of harsh treatment that more often than not is unknown to those around them. At the very least, a student can become preoccupied and overwhelmed by this onslaught of electronic attacks.
We will continue to work with law enforcement and social-media outlets to investigate and prosecute any bullying or harassment, whether through personal or electronic means. Students must feel safe and supported at school to ensure success. I encourage parents to talk with their children about this topic and keep open lines of communication.
DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us. Dan Snowberger is the superintendent of the Durango School District.