Edmond Public Schools is beginning the New Year with an initiative aimed at raising awareness among students and families of the ills that lurk within and beyond the screens of social media.
The goal of the district’s #ThinkBeforeYouPost initiative is to educate students and parents about the serious consequences that can arise as a result of posting and/or reposting hoax threats, obscene photos of themselves or others, or hate speech and bullying. In recent months, Edmond has seen a significant rise in the number of erroneous social media posts, especially ones regarding school safety. Each post had to be fully investigated to determine its credibility.
“The investigations, which often extend well beyond the school day, consume administrators’ time and attention, drain law enforcement resources and create unwarranted anxiety and panic for parents,” said Associate Superintendent Dr. Debbie Bendick.
The district is partnering with the Edmond Police Department to present the message to students. Officers will visit all six middle schools in the district between Jan. 14-25 to speak to students about their digital footprint, how to responsibly report any safety concerns they may see on social media and the repercussions of posting or reposting false information.
“It is very important to understand that sharing legitimate information about a potentially unsafe situation is welcome and we never want to prevent that,” said School Resource Officer Derick Pickard. “However, when someone changes, embellishes, or fabricates information it can have serious consequences that can include criminal charges.”
Edmond’s campaign mirrors the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s hashtag campaign which was launched last year after the FBI experienced a spike in hoax threats in the aftermath of tragic shootings such as the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Resources from the F.B.I. hashtag campaign, as well as other educational materials about social media use, will be posted to the district’s website, www.edmondschools.net.
Parents and students will also see the hashtag displayed on school marquees, social media platforms, and websites. Secondary site administrators will also be wearing T-shirts with the hashtag, which were created and donated by the Edmond Public Schools Foundation.
“We hope the visibility of the campaign will encourage parents and guardians to talk to their children about the appropriate use of their personal devices and the social media tools and apps available to them. We take very seriously the safety of our students and hope that this initiative will enhance the partnership we enjoy with our students’ parents as we work together to preserve their children’s innocence and protect their futures,” added Bendick.