Expecting the best for this school year

10/2/2019, 3:53 p.m.
District 202 community In the middle of the pretty good start of another school year, we shouldn’t have to talk ...
Dr. Lane Abrell

District 202 community

In the middle of the pretty good start of another school year, we shouldn’t have to talk about this.

In fact, in a different kind of world we wouldn’t have to talk about it at all.

But in 2019, school officials everywhere must use precious resources to discuss the problems caused by social media rather than teaching our children academics; coaching them on the athletic field; guiding them as they develop their fine arts talents; and otherwise helping them become lifelong learners and solid community members.

Specifically, I am talking about children posting false “threats” against our schools on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or other social media platforms.

As educators (and even as parents) we know adolescents often cannot see beyond their emotions. They do and say things “in the moment” with no thought about the possible ramifications of their actions.

Social media facilitates, encourages and sometimes even rewards such behavior, giving the child a measure of attention that they crave. The Internet has changed the world in both great and terrible ways. This is one of the worst.

We understand, but in 2019 we cannot excuse or allow such behavior.

Parents, community members, taxpayers, staff and students all demand and have a right to expect our schools to be safe, secure and supportive places for learning and work. Students and employees should never have to be afraid to come to school.

Yet, such messages being posted on social media start the inevitable Internet rumor mill, which then rightly creates confusion, fear and concern for everyone involved.

Since the first day of school on August 14th, District 202 has already been the target of several such threats. Thankfully, all of them were fake, as they tend to be. Yet we cannot take any chances that even one might be real.

Therefore, we proactively and aggressively monitor social media and rely on our parents and students to tell us when they see or hear concerning things.

We strive to counsel students who seem to need extra support for any of the myriad of issues that stress out adolescents.

We work closely with our public safety partners when such incidents do occur. We impose strong consequences for students who make bad choices. That can include being arrested.

And we communicate proactively with our families to share relevant, appropriate, factual information, hopefully relieve some fears and build partnerships with parents and community.

Believe it or not, parents sometimes question our disciplinary decisions when their child is facing severe consequences for their actions. They’ll suggest that their child was “just fooling around,” or “having a bad day,” or “was just being a kid,” or “didn’t know any better.”

Sadly, in 2019, those ideas cannot be entertained.

Rather than questioning the schools, parents should sit down with their kids and help them understand the significance of their actions.

Tell them to talk to a trusted adult about their frustrations instead of posting something on social media.

Help them recognize that a bad decision now can impact the rest of their lives.

District 202 is very serious when we say the safety and security of our students and staff is our top priority. We hope our community understands, appreciates and supports that position. Every day at school should be as bright, warm, inspiring, fun, safe and secure as we can make it.

In this as in all things, by working together we will continue to prepare all our students for the future.

Dr. Lane Abrell

Superintendent of Schools

Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202