WASHINGTON – Montgomery’s County schools superintendent, Joshua Starr, says students sent him racist, crass tweets — some that threatened his family — in an attempt to convince him to close schools during bad weather last week.
“Things like we’re going to slash your tires,” Starr tells WTOP.
Witnessing his students’ misuse of social media first-hand convinced Starr to ask parents and school staff to review with children how to use it both safely and appropriately.
While each school’s principal decided disciplinary action for the students responsible, Starr emphasizes this was not a case of bullying.
“This is not cyberbullying. It was just kids expressing themselves, and some of them doing it in some pretty terrible and offensive ways,” he says.
The tweets that threatened his family were reported to school security, Starr says.
“We know the principals have met with the kids who did some really egregious things, and they’ve doled out consequences that are appropriate,” he says.
He would not go into what specific punishments were given to the students involved.
In an open letter to parents, Starr makes a plea for “cybercivility,” which he says some parents have already told him they’ve discussed with their children.
As schools increase the use of technology in the classroom and cyberbullying grows, Starr wants a task force to focus on student behavior online and to provide resources and tools for parents.
Starr also urges parents not to permit children under 13 to use social media, saying they are not ready for it. He says parents should set limits and monitor teen’s use of social media. And parents should talk to their children about what is appropriate behavior online, Starr says.