Letter from Superintendent Dr. Marty about social media posts
9/6/2019 -- The below letter was sent to parents and staff today.
Dear Parkway parents,
I am reaching out to you to ask for your help and also provide some resources and information. In recent years, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of social media posts by students that are inappropriate or threaten the safety of our schools. Since school began this fall, we have already had two social media posts in our district that created concerns about safety and ultimately, resulted in district, school and law enforcement investigations and significant disciplinary consequences.
This issue is not unique to Parkway. I hear often, and you may see in the news, reports of students posting what appears to be a threat of violence to school. In the vast majority of cases, these posts turn out to be non-credible threats where students did not intend harm or have access to weapons that could cause harm to a school. Students will often say the online post or threat was a joke. The safety of our children is not a joke.
In every case, we have a duty to immediately respond and assume the threat could be credible until the investigation is complete. Often times, this requires dozens of school and district leaders and law enforcement to act at all hours of the day and night to ensure the safety of our students. In many cases, it has resulted in parents getting a knock on the door late at night from a police officer following up on the social media post. And in every case, students receive significant disciplinary consequences, regardless of the intent. In addition, the broader impact on the entire school community cannot be overstated. This behavior always causes unnecessary worry and concern among all parents, students and staff.
I want to share with you, and I hope you share with your children, the consequences of this behavior. Last year on average, students who posted a threat of violence online received and out-of-school suspension ranging from 30 to 180 days. Aside from the impact this has on the student’s academics, this has other long-term, lasting effects. In many cases, the reputation of the student and family among peers is also damaged as a result.
You might be surprised by some of the students who engage in this behavior. There is not a “typical” student who makes these poor decisions. We have had students with stellar academic and discipline records receive months of out-of-school suspension for posting a threatening comment to our school online, even if they were just joking.
Today our children are exposed to a world online that most of us did not experience in our childhood. I look at my own adult children and see new challenges for them as parents that I never had to consider. Our kids have access to technology that their brains and maturity are often not ready to tackle. As parents, I know it is challenging to navigate this ever-changing world.
This is where I ask for your help and hope to provide some assistance. Please consider the following:
- Please talk to your children about the consequences of posting inappropriate content or threats of violence online. Help them understand that there will be a significant disciplinary consequence and a lasting effect on their future. Everything they post or share can become public even if it’s only shared with one person.
- Please monitor your child’s online and social media behavior. Here are some resources that you may find helpful. We are also providing an opportunity for parents to attend a free event next week on this topic. Navigating Parenting Online will be held on Sept. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Parkway South High School.
- Please remind your children that if they see something, they say something. In most cases, since we do not have access or a need to see social media posts, it is a student, parent or staff member who alerts us and law enforcement to a potential concern. We appreciate your support in this effort.
My intent in sending this letter is not to cause worry or angst. It is to share what really happens when students make poor choices and the significant impact it causes for them, their family and our entire community. I hope this leads to more open, positive conversations with your children that will prevent this from happening. And I hope these resources will help as you navigate this parenting challenge.
Thank you for taking the time to listen and for your continued efforts to keep all of our children safe online and at school. By working together, we can support our students in this ever-changing world.
Dr. Keith Marty