Securing our schools and keeping our kids safe is a priority for all administrators. In the ever-expanding social media age we attempt to draft rules and guidelines for teacher and student interaction. There is a positive and a negative side to these policies. While we can attempt to prevent inappropriate interactions between the adults and adolescents by prohibiting ‘friending’ on social apps the result is that the teachers become blind to the bullying and threats that are too often expressed online.
Everyday the news is filled with stories regarding social media and students. There are two components that need to be considered. On one end the stories reveal inappropriate contact between teachers and students that resulted in elicit affairs or inappropriate sharing of material. While these incidents do have a social media component the vast majority occur from direct interaction at school. There are plenty of laws on the books and policies that prohibit this contact. That system is working to protect our students even though it doesn’t always immediately catch those that bypass the system.
The second aspect is the social media threats that are all too prevalent. Schools are closing, warning students & parents of potential violence, and having an increased police presence in an effort to address threats of violence that are posted online. This happens multiple times a day across this country. A simple search of ‘school threat’ on Google shows a daily barrage of schools across the country that are dealing with threats expressed by angry and disenfranchised students. We rely on other students to report these threats and hope the information isn’t too late.
Over the years, we have adopted policies to address a few bad incidents that were nationally sensationalized. Considering the horrific story out of Tennessee it is likely that these policies will be reviewed and addressed. The important thing to ponder is whether the strict prohibition on social media contact blinds the staff to other potentially harmful activities by students.
At SafeDefend we are working with school administrators to develop systems for timely notification and response to hostile events. The preparation of staff, notification to all parties and ability to protect those involved in a crisis are the principles of our program.