State schools Superintendent Randy Dorn on Wednesday used the Marysville shooting as a cautionary tale about the role of social media in young people’s lives. Kids today live in two simultaneous worlds, one real, one virtual, both intertwined.
“Social media is all around them, and many young people feel safer and are more open with Twitter and Tumblr and other channels,” Dorn said.
That’s not all bad, but it can go south quickly when rumors or compromising photos and videos get spread online.
Dorn called out cyberbullying as a potential trigger for real-life violence in schools, and he offered a tip sheet (below) for parents and school staff to help them recognize warning signs of distress or conflict online.
These are uneasy times for schools. Sadly, lockdowns are becoming part of the routine for students, precautions against the unthinkable.
On Oct. 23, the day before the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting, a threat by a Central Kitsap High School student put that school on lockdown. The threat against another student wasn’t made on campus (and it’s not clear whether cyberbullying was part of it), but school officials were taking no chances.
On Oct. 29, a man’s hostile text messages to his estranged wife, a Poulsbo Elementary School employee, led to a lockdown at that school and at Poulsbo Middle School.
On Wednesday, South Kitsap Schools briefly were on modified lockdown, as law enforcement agencies searched for David Michael Kalac, suspect in the murder of a Port Orchard woman. Kalac, believed to have posted pictures of the body online, was later found to have fled the state and was arrested late Wednesday in Oregon.
Speaking of cyberbullying, a student who identifies herself as South Kitsap High School’s “new gossip girl” began last week posting crude and potentially embarrassing posts on Twitter. The girl has gotten some push back from other students. And one parent called her out on the Port Orchard Facebook group, urging students and others to virtually shun her.
On Bainbridge Island, student Otis Doxtater took the fight against bullying (cyber and otherwise) to the next level.
Doxtater, a junior at Eagle Harbor High School, on Oct. 21
organized students from kindergarten through 12th grade to hold a
silent procession and demonstration of unity against bullying on
the campus of Commodore K-12 Options School, where Eagle Harbor is
The students created a linked chain of paper on which each had written something unique about themselves on one side and what they would do to stand up to bullying on the other. The paper slips were orange for National Unity Day, which was Oct. 22.
Younger in life, Doxtater was painfully familiar with bullying.
“I’ve always had a stutter, so that was always something that would be made fun of,” he said.
And this wasn’t the first time Doxtater had made a public protest against bullying. He has spent hours in the parking lot near McDonald’s on Bainbridge Island with a sign that reads “Love and Equality” on one side and “Stop Bullying” on the other. On Twitter, he uses the hashtag #stopbullying, and he has a YouTube channel, otisdoxtater, demonstrating some of the positive uses for social media.
The response of his schoolmates after the Unity Day demonstration was gratifying.
“As I was walking down the hall, people were walking up to me and said I did an awesome job,” Doxtater said. “It made me feel really good. It made me feel accomplished and proud.”
Doxtater knows he’s putting himself out there, but he’s OK with that.
“I realize I am making myself vulnerable and people are going to criticize me,” Doxtater said. “But I realize it’s something I’m passionate about and I’m willing to get criticized for something that I know is right.”
Maybe Dorn should hire him as a consultant.