Friday, February 6, 2015

BHS: Twitter

Dear Students,

I wanted to email all of you regarding the Twitter events at the school last week.  This is not intended to be a sermon about the right and wrong of the events. It is simply intended to share what happened and the reasons behind the decisions made.  

As many of you are aware, Superintendent McGee tweeted our delayed opening last week. His tweet prompted a variety of responses from students at BHS.  Many of the response tweets were humorous and clever, while a small number used inappropriate language towards staff or encouraged threats to be made to the school.  As the building principal, I felt it was our responsibility to address those tweets which we believed were in contradiction to the School’s Mission Statement.  

“We believe in educating the whole person so all members of Bedford High School embody respect, responsibility, integrity, and compassion, with a unique vision and voice. Through good citizenship and service to others, we strive to make positive contributions to the world.”

It was also our intention to convey an important message to the students involved (and all of you) about social media and the impact (both known and unknown) it can have on you because of its visibility.  College admission counselors, current and future employers, and even people with whom you would like to have a relationship, can use your presence on social media to make judgments and decisions about you.  To make that point, I spoke to each student involved.  I explained that, from the school’s perspective, the comments did not reflect the spirit of our Mission Statement. The comments did not embody the respect and responsibility expected of every BHS student, and they caused some degree of disruption at school. Most importantly, I used the situation to remind them of the visibility and possible judgments and decisions others might make in the future about them.  Initially, I issued suspensions from school as a consequence for the students’ actions.  Please know this was a very difficult decision to make because I believe in a student’s right to express himself or herself especially outside of school; however, I also believe that as adults and educators, we have an obligation to guide you in making good decisions.  After much discussion with Superintendent McGee over the weekend, a decision was made to rescind the suspensions from school that had been based on the use of inappropriate language.  This was the right thing to do.

I am writing to you today because this is a teachable moment for me and, I hope, for all of you.  I recognize there is a line I need to attend to regarding when and where the school’s authority can be exercised. The school’s responsibility regarding issues that arise at the intersection of school and social media is new territory, and it may take more time, experience and discussion to get it right.  I want you to know we will work hard to make the best decisions as issues arise.  Know, however, they will always be with our school’s mission and your best interest in my mind.  

Sincerely,

Mr. Hagen

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