Karen Washington, a social studies teacher at Watertown High School in Massachusetts, sent us this message in response to Monday's story about a group of girls who were expelled for talking on Facebook about killing several peers and a teacher. Ms. Washington used the story as the foundation for a classroom discussion. She describes what her students had to say.
I teach at Watertown High School outside of Boston. After hearing the story about the Facebook case this morning, I talked about it with my Modern World Honors class. They're a very thoughtful and informed group of eleventh graders.
One student immediately brought up that things posted on Facebook are public. Many of my students believed that the girls should have been expelled because they saw it as a safety issue. They believed that students would not feel safe in the school if they had to see the girls everyday. Others said that the students should have been suspended and forced to go into therapy. I would say that most were shocked by what the girls posted and what they said. I brought up the point that in many school violence cases, people wonder about what signs they missed. However, a few brought up the point that many would not post their plans on the internet.
To the girls it may have seemed like a joke, but my class believes that many people do not think about the consequences of their actions before they do something. In today’s classroom, these types of posts cannot be ignored. I have brought issues surrounding Facebook postings to counselors and my administration. But many students still do not feel like the school takes all allegations of bullying seriously. They feel some get more attention that others. In a complete coincidence, students participated in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey today. Unfortunately, students do not take it seriously. I feel that they do not think that their ideas and thoughts matter to those in charge.
While the decision of the administration may seem extreme, it does send the message that any threats of violence will not be tolerated. This may have happened outside of school, but it has a chilling effect on the school environment."