I write to you to appeal to you in relation to communication. For the second time this school year, we were greeted yesterday morning with concerned parents who had read unpleasant messages about our school and our teachers online, in Facebook and WhatsApp groups set up specifically for parents of children in our school. I am so grateful to those parents for their concern and for their communication. They, and I - and most parents, I think! - dream of a community for our children where grievances are aired in person, face-to-face, in a restorative fashion, where they don't need to fear bullying, where they are given a fair hearing.
Every person in our school is a human being, a person with feelings and a reputation to uphold, a daughter or a son, a mother or a father, a friend, a colleague. We are all human. Collectively, we make a community. In school, we work hard to encourage kindness, caring, looking after one another, believing the best in the other person, trusting that they are working from their truth and from their heart and working together to find a shared truth, a shared plan.
We teach our children about being responsible digital citizens as well as responsible regular citizens. Would we be happy to see a character assassination of a child online? Would we be happy if our child wrote insults or unfounded accusations about another child online? Would we be happy if our child read such comments and did nothing, did not stand up for the absent person being slated?
I hope that the answer for everyone is "No. No, we would not." So why do we allow adults to do that?!
Citywest ETNS has a robust complaints procedure and we are an open school. Any person who has a concern or a grievance should, in the first place, request a meeting with the person they feel aggrieved by and sit with that person with the aim of sorting things out. If that does not yield results, come to me, School Principal. If you are still dissatisfied, contact the Chairperson of the school's Board of Management. And if you remain dissatisfied, report to the Board of Management.
According to the Department of Education, "placing a once-off offensive or hurtful public message, image or statement on a social network site or other public forum where that message, image or statement can be viewed and/or repeated by other people will be regarded as bullying behaviour". Please be mindful of this when you are engaging in social media of any kind. Before you hit "Send" or "Post", remember to THINK - Is it
- STOP - don't reply, take a screengrab
- BLOCK - you can block the person from sending further messages that you will see and/or block them from tagging you
- TELL - tell an authority, tell the person who was written about, report it to admin of the group or to the host of the platform
I know that this is not a comfortable thing to do. But seriously, we are all working together to create a positive world for our children. We tell our children to report when they have a problem or when someone is being unkind. Children learn from what we DO more than from what we SAY. Be the change you want to see in the world. Step up and make the world a better place.
I sincerely hope that this kind of posting doesn't happen again. Anywhere.
But if it does, I really hope that my inbox is inundated by others who want to help by bringing it to light.
Finally, please realise that, while there are lots of positives on social media, it is an unreliable source of information and you should not believe everything you read there.
I encourage you to read the following leaflets:
Yours in partnership,