This has prompted a debate in several communities about how cold is too cold. Of course, this debate plays out in social media, particularly on Facebook. Parents and community members post not only questions that are geared toward furthering their understanding of the delaying/closing process, but also "air their grievances" about issues they have with the school district.
While I believe it is important to engage the community in two way communication and be open to feedback, how should schools respond when the conversation becomes accusatory, inaccurate, and even inappropriate? I watched the dialogue unfold as one district attempted to respond to the concerns and explain the decision making process. The response was viewed as defensive and was openly criticized by parents and community members. Suddenly, the comment thread appeared to take on a "mob" mentality. The continuous negative comments and criticisms, left me with a multitude of emotions. I felt saddened by the "attacks" on the school and simultaneously frustrated that more individuals who were supportive of the district's decision didn't post comments.
I began to wonder if those in favor of the district's decision intentionally didn't post a comment for fear they would be criticized or "bullied" for their opinions. (It should be noted that there were positive comments or favorable comments posted as well). I also realized that I had an opportunity to respond, yet didn't. I wondered why I remained silent. And my answer was simple: fear. I was afraid any comment I made would be criticized. I was afraid my comment would put me at risk professionally- what would be the consequences in my own district for commenting on another district's decision even if my comments were favorable or supportive. Would I hurt or help professional relationships with educators in this district? Are these the same questions others were asking themselves? And, were those who remained silent victimized as bystanders to the negativity that unfolded?
How a parent responds to district decisions and district personnel influences how the child views the school. How many students watched this negative dialogue unfold? How many students' opinions of the district or district personnel were negatively influenced by the actions of the adults on Facebook that night?
We teach our students the importance of digital citizenship. We remind students to THINK before they post. We preach to them to make sure that what they post is Truthful, Helpful, Important, Necessary, and Kind. Yet, I logged off Facebook that evening with a sinking feeling that the ones who need digital citizenship are the ones who have the greatest influence on our children: the parents.
Currently, my district does not utilize a Facebook page, however, we have not been immune from these types of conversations unfolding in social media. And, as we look toward utilizing one in the future, how will we handle controversial decisions? How does your school respond?