Student texting challenges schools, parents

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE – The suspensions given earlier this month to students involved in the possession or distribution of inappropriate photos was the latest reminder of a challenge facing both schools and parents.

Taylor School District Supt. Leslie Hainrihar said social media and smart phones have blurred the distinction between off- and on-campus activity.

“The photos originated outside of school hours, and off school property,” Hainrihar said. “Then it comes into school one day: They send the message around. Any time it enters the school we have an obligation to intervene, and the courts support that intervention.”

Administrators at Southgate Anderson High School were approached earlier this month by the father of a female student who requested to search her locker. A sequence of events was reported to Southgate police in early March after the man discovered that his daughter had sent topless photos to her boyfriend.

The father had taken away the girl’s devices, but when more photos had been sent he reached out to police and the school.

Hainrihar said both students admitted to having sent and received the photos, which resulted in a three-day suspension for both. The grades and ages of the students was not disclosed.

The girl’s boyfriend admitted to having asked her to send the photos, which Hainrihar said has become a growing problem.

“It’s most often occurring between kids who know each other,” Hainrihar said. “It’s another form of peer pressure.”

Although in this instance it appeared the distribution of the photos had been limited, Hainrihar said there is far greater risk involved.

“Like anything it can be and is often shared widely,” Hainrihar said. “Once you hit send you lose control of what might happen. That it occurs at all is frightening, but parents need to know that it is occurring. It’s dangerous activity and under most circumstances it’s illegal activity.”

Hainrihar said there have been arguments to simply ban smart phones, an impractical solution to enforce and one that overlooks the advantages of devices for education.

“The instant reaction is to take the phones away, but they can be an amazing opportunity as an instructional tool,” Hainrihar said. “Rather than go down that path, I’d rather educate students about the safe use of devices.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at james.a.mitchell37@gmail.com.)

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