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Social Networking: Every Word Matters.


Two days ago netiquette was the subject on this space. This morning I read the Tennesseean’s home page and see the story about a student at MLK who has been expelled because of cyber threats posted on his Facebook page about his coach. What a tragic story for everyone involved. When we kicked off our blog I wrote that we live in a post-Columbine world. Perhaps that sounded a bit dramatic … it’s not. Nothing, Nothing, related to how we view school safety in America will ever be the same. No matter what kind of security measures are in place, what strategies and programs are implemented to deal with youth violence, bullying, harassment, hazing, intimidation etc. the simple reality is that threats … no matter the intent … will always be taken seriously by school personnel. Speech online may appear to be free, but it is not without consequence … sometimes severe.

A lot remains to be seen about the implications of this expulsion.  The schools role in dealing with off campus posts on MySpace and Facebook is just one issue. The Tennesseean quotes David Hudson, of the First Amendment Center, “Online speech for students is hazy because the Supreme Court has yet to decide a case on the matter.” Certainly in this case … in a post Columbine World …  the  threat made by the student caused MNPS officials to believe that this act posed a substantial disruption to school activities, and they were well within their jurisdiction to take appropriate  action to mitigate the threat.

For me, this story is tragic in many ways. From what is written about this young man, his past behavior sounds very positive. Great track record at school, involved in athletics, obviously  a good student, a second semester senior  preparing for graduation and with aspirations to attend law school. For MNPS, the difficult decision of how to respond to an online threat on one of its employees from a student, evidently with no history of this kind at all. End of the day … everyone loses. What a tragedy. My hope for everyone involved in this tragic situation is that lessons will be learned about the power of the internet … the risks involved in posting highly flammable language and the need for education about the implications of all this for this generation of young people who live with the ability to communicate, instantaneously. at the tap of a finger. It’s not enough to guard your tongue, watch the finger also.

At STARS, we are proud to represent one of the finest resources available in the United States to help students address the issues of netiquette, social networking sites, and cyber bullying. You can find this resource at our website … The product  is Cyber Bullying by three of my colleagues Sue Limber, Patti Agaston, and Robin Kowalski. If we can help you and your school address the issue of cyber bullying, call us at 6y15-279-0058.

STARS is deeply committed to creating a culture and work space that centers on the power of relationships, that values diversity of perspective and experience, and that honors the dignity, worth, and contributions of all.