For better, and in some cases, for worse, the digital age of communication and use of social media in education is here to stay.
On September 22, 2021, Milpitas Unified School District Board of Education President Chris Norwood convened a 60-minute Special Board Study Session with student leadership, Milpitas law enforcement and district leaders to discuss social media trends in our school communities and their impact on safety and resource utilization. In attendance were secondary school principals, assistant principals, teachers, students, and student governance leaders from Milpitas High School, Milpitas Middle College High School, Calaveras Hills High School, Thomas Russell Middle School and Rancho Middle School.
It was an eye-opening discussion. Students shared their knowledge of the many different social media trends, concerns, and platforms used most commonly for fun and in education. Three of the biggest student concerns were cyberbullying, unknowingly communicating with strangers and being trolled. Twitch, Discord, YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat, TikTok and other international platforms that pay users for content were mentioned as dominating the hearts and minds of the youth.
In the past month, a TikTok Challenge has adversely affected many schools across the nation, including four sites in MUSD. It has disrupted campus bathroom usage and hampered availability. Superintendent Cheryl Jordan shared with all who attended the meeting, in person and via Zoom, the financial implications and reallocation of resources to address the issue. Thus far, costs for damages and stolen property, including soap, toilet paper and paper towel dispensers, toilet seats and handles, and bathroom stall doors, have eclipsed $11,500. Other costs include loss of opportunities for staff and students to learn and work without concern for a loss of basic necessities and human dignity.
MPD Sgt. Jason Speckenheuer and MHS School Resource Officer John Muok agreed there has been an uptick in trends involving students including videos posted of fights and vandalism. Sgt. Speckenheuer correlated that to students being away from campuses during the pandemic and upon returning are attention seeking and doing things they may not normally do. SRO Muok added the dangers of anonymous social media platforms where students may actually be interacting with adult predators portraying teens.
Students also shared that while they are back on campus, they are still getting acclimated to the idea the campuses are “theirs”. Students reminded the adults that many freshmen did not have middle school experiences, the majority of MHS seniors were only on campus for a year and a half after the 2018-2019 school year, missing out on school community events such as the MHS Trojan Olympics and more. MHS Principal Francis Rojas shared similar sentiments as he reflected on the positive direction of the school campus culture pre-pandemic.
MUSD Board of Trustees’ MHS student representative Sydney Hoang also shared about a different type of social disconnect on the MHS campus. She stated, most of the students who are involved in clubs, sports, governance, etc. may not have friendships with those who aren’t, and that is also a challenge if we are all in this together.
Consequences for students involved in these recent acts of vandalism include restitution for stolen and damaged property, authoring a letter of apology to their school community, and speaking with and assisting custodians with their daily cleaning duties after the school day.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the MUSD Board President thanked the students for their candor, staff for the time, and community for engaging in a productive dialogue. He also shared his desire for the students to be at the forefront of solving this challenge instead of the Board having to make policies that may do more harm than good. Schools have, and others are in the process of, introducing an anonymous tip “Say Something” phone app for students to report incidents, and principals have communicated to families via ParentSquare asking for parent/caregiver support and outlining disciplinary actions for students and bystanders of vandalism.
To view the study session click here.