Wednesday, October 17, 2018
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sharyland-logo-copy-1Social media accounts for campuses around the Rio Grande Valley have been popping up over the last month, creating a student forum for rumors, bullying and vulgarity.

An account created this week for Sharyland High School gained nearly 600 followers just days after its inception on March 31.

Sharyland ISD Superintendent Virginia N. Richter said the account was seen Monday evening by administrators who took immediate action on reporting the account to Twitter. Staff also blocked Twitter access from the school’s wireless Internet account.

“What is worrisome, as a superintendent, is the vulgarity,” Richter said. “I have a 20-year-old son. I thought if I saw my son writing these comments I would be livid.”

The person running the account titled Shary Confessions asks followers to submit statements to the account operator who later posts them anonymously. At one point, the administrator stated “confessions” sent during the day would be posted during school. Topics included campus issues, sexual promiscuity and drug use. Posts included accusations of inappropriate behavior of high school teachers and staff. Students also shared their own comments about the “confessions” updated on their personal pages.

The account was disabled Wednesday night.

Richter said students should understand that the postings will follow them through college and may be an issue when looking for a job out of school.

“When they (employers) go back and do a check, it is going to take them back all the way to their high school years,” Richter said. “When an employer sees something like that, there is no way they are going to get a job.”

Sharyland ISD does have training for Internet use and etiquette, and administrators will have a plan on how to execute the programs by the end of the week, Richter said. Starting next year, students will have to take the modules at the beginning of each semester.

Parents of students who were involved with the Twitter posts also will be contacted, according to the superintendent. Richter said the district will post information for parents on their website to promote Internet safety and monitoring use.

Districts surrounding Sharyland ISD were also mentioned in similar confession-style Twitter accounts. And in Mission Consolidated ISD, the behavior could be punished through the code of conduct.

According to Craig Verley, director of public relations and marketing for Mission CISD, this kind of behavior does fall under the district’s code of conduct rules and board policies addressing bullying and harassment.

Verley added each year students are trained on bullying, which includes what is acceptable and unacceptable online behavior.

All district staff also goes through similar training, he said. Mission CISD has resource officers from the Mission Police Department who provide information and instruction that touch on the issue of online safety and harassment.

Online issues are more difficult to deal with since they are created and updated by anonymous users and used out of the school environment; Verley said the matter does become actionable by the district when it disrupts the instructional environment or school operations.

Representatives of both districts agree parents should have a prominent role in monitoring and controlling their children’s online activity. Parents also are encouraged to report inappropriate behavior to the respective social network sites.

“They are still children who live under their parent’s roof; parents reserve the right to check their Twitter, Facebook and other social media,” Richter said. “We can get more parents involved, though I know they are busy. But these kids are going to hurt themselves and they don’t realize it.”