For many years, schools have made deliberate efforts to teach students about their digital footprints and the ramifications of posting inappropriate things online, and yet there continues to be an increase in students nationwide using popular social media platforms to make threats against other students and their schools – opening themselves up to possible criminal charges and civil liability.
In Elk Grove Unified, we take threats to do harm against our schools, students and staff very seriously. We do not consider any such threat to be a prank. As evident in the December 8 Sacramento Sheriff’s press release, student threats of violence against our schools, fellow students and staff can lead to arrests.
For most teens, social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok play a big role in their daily lives. While these apps can be positive by providing an avenue for personal expression and paving the way for connections to like minded peers, there is a downside as well. The ease of sharing information, combined with the perceived feeling of “anonymity” and the ability to reach large scale audiences in a short amount of time, creates opportunities for students to embarrass, threaten and hurt others through cyberbullying.
Schools are also seeing an increase in anonymous social media accounts being created solely to ridicule other students under the guise of the school’s name/branding. It is challenging for school administrators to get these accounts removed, as they can only get law enforcement involved to investigate/trace an IP address if there is a credible threat to student safety.
One way families can help is to have conversations about the importance of reporting these posts. Families should also make it clear to their children that liking, commenting or sharing these posts is part of the problem. It takes an audience for these posts to gain traction. Without an audience, the accounts generally go away as fast as they appear.
It’s important students know that everything they put online, stays online forever. Families can teach their children the simple rule, if you wouldn’t say it or do it in person, don’t say it or do it online. Unlike something said in person, there will almost always be a record documenting what was said. Law enforcement has the ability to trace the source of posts. No matter how you post something, it is never truly anonymous and will leave some kind of digital record – even if you delete it.
While your digital footprint can be an opportunity to showcase your best self, it can also have lasting consequences for negative things posted – from losing out on scholarships, not being admitted to your dream college, potential job loss from a future or current employer, to possible jail time – it’s not worth it.
If you are made aware of a school threat or imminent threat against student safety, contact your local police or sheriff’s department. For EGUSD families, please report instances of cyberbullying and/or damage or harm to a school by contacting your school’s administration or by filling out a report using the EGUSD Incident Reporting System on your school’s website.
EGUSD is committed to providing a safe, secure and healthy environment that allows every student to be learning in every classroom, in every subject, every day. Students and staff have the right to be free of bullying, threats, intimidation and harassment while on our campuses. In Elk Grove Unified, the community is encouraged that “if you see something, or know something, to say something.”