Lansing Supt. Requesting Civility on Social Media Following Everett Student's Death

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'Read twice, post rarely.'

It's the message Lansing Public Schools Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul is trying to get through to her students.

"They don't know what the implication is of what they're saying, they're gossiping and spreading rumors around," she said.

Caamal Canul, who publishes her 'Monday Memo' weekly, said her desire to focus on social media responsibility has been a "long time coming."

The memo comes just a few weeks after Everett High School student Dalia Carpenter committed suicide, a tragedy family and friends have blamed partially on cyber-bullying, though Caamal Canul said it was not the primary reason she chose to address the topic now.

"I've been wanting to write about the use of social media for months now," she said.

Caamal Canul cites a series of recent events, including the shooting of three Sexton High School students in September, as reason to raise awareness of the unintended consequences online interactions can produce.

"Sometimes the comments are really hurtful to other people and especially with kids who are using social media to have conversations that they might not normally have face-to-face," she said.

Caamal Canul added the online behavior of some of her own faculty and staff members in the district has also raised concern, citing some postings and interactions as "not as professional as she'd like to see."

"They're hiding behind sort of the anonymity of social media."

It's a problem the district is now actively addressing, but it's one that's hard to stay on top of monitoring because students are doing it on their cell phones and the interactions are happening so quickly, Caamal Canul admits.

"We have no way of monitoring or controlling and then what ends up happening is we (the school) gets the tail-end of this escalated discussion without any real understanding of the context that led up to it," she said.

Like what led up to Everett High School Senior Dalia Carpenter choosing to take her own life in early December, a situation family and friends chalk up partially to cyber-bullying, while Caamal Canul and the district contend they've found no evidence of bullying in their investigations.

Caamal Canul said she is also working with her staff to create a clearer district policy to define better guidelines for what constitutes bullying and cyber-bullying.

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