Report by Paula Antolini, November 1, 2019, 1:45PM EDT
We recently reported on bullying behavior in our October 24, 2019 story entitled, “Bullying Incidents During Bethel High School ‘America Day / Patriotism Day’ Turns Homecoming ‘Spirit Week’ Ugly,” in which unacceptable behavior was conducted by students during Homecoming “Spirit Week” on an themed day called “America Day / Patriotism Day.” Apparently numerous bullying incidents, both verbally and physically, happened to students to undermine the meaning of the day. It later spilled over into bad behavior on social media, Dr. Carver stated, both by students and adults alike. On top of that there were many conflicting reports incorrectly stated as fact, adding to the drama.
In this week’s School Superintendent’s newsletter dated 11-1-19, Dr. Christine Carver makes an “impassioned plea” for parents to be a role model of good behavior during controversies, in real time and on social media, during any controversies. She said, “I fear we are at a crossroads within society and with our children, who are emulating the same behavior that adults engage in on a daily basis, particularly on social media, which reinforces polarized views, bullying, racism, mean behavior, and hate speech.”
Carver said it’s “like a game of telephone” … “the information becomes sensationalized and embellished, leading to our children threatening one another. They are mirroring what they see adults saying and doing.“
“This is a societal issue that we all need to work on together,” Carver said.
Read Dr. Carver’s letter below:
“Dear Parents, Guardians, and Community Members:
“I am sure that I will receive criticism for the content of this week’s newsletter. I want you to know that my intent is not to rant about the past few weeks events. As a leader of a school district which serves close to 3200 students, I want to create an impassioned plea that I fear we are at a crossroads within society and with our children, who are emulating the same behavior that adults engage in on a daily basis, particularly on social
media, which reinforces polarized views, bullying, racism, mean behavior, and hate speech. What should have been a wonderful homecoming week, turned into a circus of inaccuracies on social media, hate sites being developed, and threats were made between students and the broader public, all on social media. It evolved to a point where someone actually said to me, “Do you think it was good judgment on the part of the schools to have a Patriotic Day?” It makes me sad to think that we have gotten to the point that we cannot honor our country in our school.
“Here’s the problem, which happens too frequently. Instead of contacting the schools if there is a concern, people immediately go to social media. Often times, although there may be some basis in reality, like a game of telephone, the information becomes sensationalized and embellished, leading to our children threatening one another. They are mirroring what they see adults saying and doing. In turn, it causes our administration literally days of time investigating incidents, when we should be focused on educating our children.
“Our society and consequently our children have lost the ability to engage in civil dialogue. The increase in hate talk and mean behavior is significantly increasing anxiety and depression in our youth. This is not a school issue. This is a societal issue that we all need to work on together.
“Here is what we need from the adults in our community:
- Report any concerns directly to the schools. Do not be a part of propagating false information on social media.
- Model respectful online behavior, our children are always watching.
- Teach respect and civility. We do not have to agree on all social or political issues, but we have to get back to the concept of humanity. Instead of hating each other we can respectfully disagree and/or learn from each other’s’ perspective.
- Monitor your child’s online behavior. Teach your children the dangers of hateful speech. Take away their devices when they do not practice good digital citizenship.
“The Bethel Board of Education is committed to creating and maintaining a physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe educational environment free from bullying, teen dating violence, harassment, and discrimination. The district’s commitment to address bullying behavior, teen dating violence, and harassment involves a multi-faceted approach that includes student, parent, and staff education and promotes safe school climates in which bullying, teen dating violence, harassment, and mean behavior will never be tolerated. Bethel’s multi-faceted prevention and intervention approach is outlined in the District Safe School Climate Plan.
At their meeting on October 17th the Board voted to create an Ad-Hoc Committee for the purpose of exploring district issues on culture and diversity. I will keep you updated on the committee’s work.