School official: Social media a bigger problem than gangs

WASHINGTON — Student posts on social media lead to a lot of fights in schools, according to a local school safety leader.

“We’re dealing with so many issues day in and day out, and acts of violence and students being attacked based on what’s out there on their social network,” said Wayne Ferrell, a cluster security coordinator for Montgomery County Public Schools.

At a meeting last week about gangs hosted by the group Safe Silver Spring, Ferrell said social media is actually a bigger problem than gangs.

He said the schools’ new, state-mandated Code of Conduct, combined with an influx of new students who fled violence in other countries, set up what looked like a “perfect storm.”

The Code of Conduct, which took effect last school year, encourages discipline that keeps kids in school and helps them learn from their mistakes, and discourages suspensions except as a last resort.

But Ferrell said that change appears to be backfiring.

“Kids are now starting to realize ‘You know, I can actually get away with doing certain things and it’s not going to be that serious’.”

Ferrell said schools don’t have the staff or resources to provide for students what the new guidelines call for, and calling in parents to help resolve their child’s problem doesn’t always work.

“I think there needs to be resources out here [that] actually teach parents how to be parents,” he said.

Ferrell said services provided by the county’s Street Outreach Network and recreation department make a big difference, and he hopes those resources are expanded.

“Our kids are crying out for help, because you know what? After school, a lot of them don’t have anything to do or nowhere to go,” Ferrell said. “And when you look at the programs that are within the schools, they’re overcrowded.”

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