Proactively Monitoring Social Media

Baldwin County Schools, AL is responding to threats of school violence posted via social media this week. While local authorities believe there is no credibility to the threat, school administrators and first responders are taking the necessary steps to ensure security on campus:http://www.al.com/news/mobile/index.ssf/2016/01/shootout_threat_at_robertsdale.html#incart_river_home

In the age of the online social community, many students’ first stop for voicing adolescent frustrations is the World Wide Web. There, followers hundreds of miles away from “reality” can provide a sense of confirmation, validity and connection. Additional attractions, like the perception of anonymity and a lack of consequences for conduct online, serve as justifications for their behavior. (1)

Over the recent years the US has witnessed a surge in the number of precautionary campus lockdowns and school closings. Overwhelmingly, these actions are taken by central office administration because of threats posted on social media.

Key Points for K-12 Campus Social Media:

  • Virtual Vigilance — In many cases a simple search engine ping will generate results for posts related to a certain topic or location. Designate a staff member to comb through online posts and social media as part of their daily roles and responsibilities.
  • Law Enforcement Liaison — While many K-12 districts have the benefit of on campus School Resource Officers, or School Police Officers, many do not. Regardless, each campus should have a point of contact that communicates with law enforcement and other first responders in the community on a regular basis, especially when it pertains to student behavior on social media.
  • Parent Communication — Parents are arguably your most demanding stakeholders and your most valuable resources at the K-12 level. Keep them in the loop on behavioral changes or peer issues and they should return the favor. You might also be able to enlist assistance from them with monitoring social media outlets.

Remember, the intent of terroristic threats is to create fear and instability in the status quo. As long as we remain vigilant, communicate with our first responders and strive to positively impact the root of the problem for the kids that need our help, we can continue to ensure a safe learning environment for all.

(1) Julie Zhuo, “Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt,” The New York Times, November 29, 2010,http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/opinion/30zhuo.html (accessed January 25, 2016).

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