It is the obligation of the school district to make clear what is appropriate and what is not when it comes to information that is shared online. Should these girls be punished? Absolutely. Do I think they are the only ones at fault in the situation? Absolutely not. Ambiguity creates confusion and is the biggest obstacle to overcome.
For example, if 100 students were invited to attend this “event,” why were only the six girls arrested? Why not arrest all the students who accepted the invitation to “Attack a Teacher Day”? What about the students who RSVP’d “maybe” to the event? Or how about the students who declined to attend the event but wrote hateful comments about a teacher on the event’s Facebook wall?
You get my point. It can be a very slippery slope with no guideposts to grab on to. Until schools put serious priority in creating, implementing and practicing the guidelines for social-media use within their walls, events such as this one will continue to occur. Just as students know what happens if they ditch class, they should also know what happens if they talk about attacking a teacher on Facebook. It is the obligation of the school to make that clearly understood — not to assume it is understood.
The lack of clear policies might also be a factor in many teachers’ hesitancy to use these tools within the classroom. It is a shame that our educational system isn’t embracing communication tools that have brought so much good to organizations all over the world. Just think of all the creative ways nonprofits have embraced social networks and the amazing things that have been accomplished by their application. Incorporating social networking into a lesson plan can have outstanding benefits for both teacher and student.
One example of this is choral director for Lincoln-Way Central High School, Mike Bultman, a former teacher of mine who I interviewed to obtain perspective on how to use social-networking tools to connect with students and alumni.
“It has been a good tool to send reminders, anything from a rehearsal date to a concert date to a reunion or alumni meeting," Bultman said. "I use it the most with my current students who are in many of my groups/activities, mostly to remind them of responsibilities.”