A Salem area high school principal is planning mandatory classes on cyberbullying after about 20 students were suspended for passing on a tweet that claimed a teacher flirted with students.
“Nothing’s finalized, but there’s an opportunity for more education,” McKay High School Principal Sara LeRoy says.
The tweet was circulated on social media anonymously through the Twitter handle @SalemConfessions.
For those not familiar with the world of tweets, retweets, favoriting and handles, the Salem Statesman Journal explained:
Twitter is among the most popular social media sites worldwide. It allows users to send and receive messages, known as tweets, that are up to 140 characters long. The system allows users to search for and interact with other users, and to retweet and/or favorite the tweets of others.
A handle is the name associated with a particular account on the social media service, from personal names to business brands. But recently, anonymous Twitter handles have become popular with teen students.
The anonymous tweet named a McKay High School teacher as a “flirt” with her students. The first tweet was initially retweeted by around 20 McKay students who were later suspended for two days.
The Statesman Journal reported that administrators claimed the students breached the Salem-Keizer School District Administration Policy on grounds of cyberbullying when they retweeted.
LeRoy says the administration looked at each student’s scenario to determine the appropriate punishment. She adds that the teacher who is involved is “very hurt.”
“It’s our responsibility to ensure that students have a safe learning environment and that teachers have a safe teaching environment,” she says.
Salem-Keizer School District spokesperson Jay Remy says the district won’t get involved unless a parent files a complaint.
“School discipline happens at the school level,” he says. “It always starts with the schools.”
Parent Patty Davis told the Statesman Journal the school had gone “too far” by suspending students.
The McKay High School tweet went online on Feb. 11, the same day The Columbian published an article about a similar Washington teens’ confession Twitter account. The @ClarkCountyFessions handle turns out anonymous confessions typically around high school students’ sex lives.
Today, it’s hard to believe anything on the Internet can truly be anonymous, but young people are finding ways to respond to anonymous Twitter handles.
Clark County’s confessions account calls for submissions through Ask.fm, while Salem Confessions uses a Google Doc form. Each requires the person’s confession and what high school the person attends. From there, the people curating the accounts tweet submissions with an attribution to the high school.
Evergreen and Vancouver school districts both made statements at the time about taking action against the owner of the account and searching for signs of bullying. However, Vancouver School District Communications Director Pat Mattison says administrators couldn’t do anything to follow up.
“We didn’t do an investigation,” she says. “No one complained or reported anything, so there was nothing we could investigate.”
Like the planned classes at McKay High School, Mattison says there are classes for students to learn how to represent themselves on the Web. The district even has a few classes for parents as well. Evergreen School District did not immediately return calls from OPB.
LeRoy says the school does not plan to investigate the claims made in the Salem Confessions tweet.