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PAUSD Allows Cyber-Hate at Paly & Gunn

Original post made by PA Dad, Duveneck/St. Francis, on Feb 27, 2009

100+ students at Paly and Gunn participated in an "I Hate x" Facebook group directed at a fellow student. And despite a new CA on-line harassment law, the schools and PAUSD administration did nothing.

Below is an excerpt from Web Link :

Evidently, a small group of bored Gunn High School boys and girls got together one Friday evening and "just for fun" started a group on Facebook called, "I Hate...". As the week-end wore on, more and more students joined the group, the comments becoming more vile and disgusting - each one feeding off the other in a "feeding frenzy". By Monday morning, over 100 high school students, equally represented between Palo Alto High School and Gunn (2 nationally recognized schools) had joined this "I Hate" group. As far as I know, none of the bullies personally know the targeted child. They just thought it would be "fun" to laugh at and demean this kid online. The comments ranged from insulting, rude comments to actual threats of violence.

Read the full article for more information. Then go look at YOUR child's facbook group list!

- PA Dad

Comments (71)

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Posted by Emily
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 27, 2009 at 11:11 am

It is outrageous that after a PAUSD student was bullied by other PAUSD students that the schools will do nothing. At a minimum they should have contacted the parents of the students involved, put the offending students on some kind of computer probation (taken their computer privileges at school away), and provided counseling to the victim.

PAUSD has been getting more aggressive about bullying at school, so why on earth would they turn away just because it happened off campus? The victim is still a student, who has a right to a safe learning environment!

Turning a blind eye to this incident will just make things worse, and prove to students they can do anything they want online without consequence.


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Posted by SAHM
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Feb 27, 2009 at 11:22 am

Appalling. Too many unnurturing parents out there who don't respect their children. Kind parents don't have unkind kids.


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Posted by PA Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 27, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Not only did PAUSD refuse to take any action about this, but the police were notified and also refused to do anything. To refuse to even do as little as to notify the parents of the teens involved in the vicious, threatening nature this group targeted at one younger student neglects the responsibility we have to protect our youth. Not to mention the message it sends to the students in this district about what acceptable behavior is.

Please read the whole post refered to above and think about if PAUSD not having a cyberbullying policy is ok with you.


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Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 27, 2009 at 3:50 pm



What a storm in a teacup!


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 27, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Let's just say this does not reflect favorably on either Gunn or Paly students. I'm not sure it is the priority to blame it on lack of a cyberbullying policy on PAUSD's part. Let's keep the blame on the kids who did it.


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Posted by Facebooker
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Facebook should be held to account for this as well. Their monitors should be all over a group like this and usually are...shutting them down quite quickly.


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Posted by PointOfView
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2009 at 9:07 pm

"Kind parents don't have unkind kids."

Parenting would indeed be more straightforward if this theory corresponds to reality. Does it? I don't have enough data, but growing up I seemed to run into numerous counterexamples.


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Posted by ElephantMemory
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2009 at 7:54 am

This incident is a bit of déjà vu from 1997:

Web Link


California law may not give schools jurisdiction to suspend or expel students from bullying and hate crimes, but kicking kids out of school is kind of a hateful response to immoral behavior. However, nothing has ever prevented schools from taking kids to task over their behavior, including pulling them into a "talk" with a counselor about the impact of their behavior on the victim.

The "didn't happen on school time or property" excuse for non-intervention doesn't wash. When a non-school activity happens to poison the school environment psychologically for the victim, the victim's access to education is damaged for months to come.

Maybe what the high schools should do is require all students to take a one-semester class that deals with all the issues of bullying and hate speech on multiple levels, e.g., what constitutes bullying and hate-speech, the issues of cyberspace vs. in-person harassment, crossing the line between joking around and becoming abusive, constitutional free speech rights vs. hate speech, etc., along with the psychological impact on the victim, impact of herd mentality in group hate speech, and so-on. Kind of a multidisciplinary course. Not a punitive class, but a thought-provoking course designed to help our students understand the issues of our time and help them become better human beings.


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Posted by PA PARENT2
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 28, 2009 at 8:35 am

It's the responsibility of the parents to govern these children. Why should the school be involved at all? All I see here are parents trying to blame someone else for the actions of these kids.

I don't condone this kind of behavior and that's why I am "friends" with my son on facebook, why I keep tabs on his behavior, and why he knows better than to join a group like this. To blame the school or the district for the behavior of these teenagers is insane.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 28, 2009 at 8:38 am

Adding a one-semester class on this at HS level? Ridiculous! You're way too late. Plus it wouldn't be effective.I do agree there is a GENERAL problem that needs to be tackled.
How about showing some basic decency in behavior? That's all we're talking about. This is basic, basic stuff. Really fundamental. This has to do with day-to-day life, how we act and treat others in basic interactions as we go about our days, not an isolated "learning episode" that we "should all learn from." Sorry, I already know decent behavior.
There needs to be strong modeling here by adults, teachers, parents, in public and in private.
For some reason, Palo Alto has some parents who wish to build their children into the type who wishes to steamroller others "in their way." "Win at any cost" and "Ends (cheating, plagiarizing) justifies the means" (Ivy admission) also rules. Witness PALY's two graduation speakers who were students found to have plagiarized their speeches and were rewarded with Stanford and Ivy acceptances.
Back to this cyber-bullying episode of the 100 kids. So the school district refuses to take an interest even though the names of the kids are clearly documented? Were the children of any Board members involved in the bullying by any chance?
It goes back to parenting as well as the school and social environment here.
I would not, even as a small child, dream of sticking my foot out and trip another child passing by (no computers then). If such action were observed by someone, a teacher, it should be STOPPED immediately and the perp held accountable NOW. That's how you get improvement. Not some lengthy lecturing long after, after things have accelerated in terms of poor behavior and attitude, where you have a group of teens sitting there eye-rolling, yawning, and messaging while you attempt to kindly guide them. The long-suffering, weak school administrators need to develop some backbone and make consuquences for documented misbehavior. Where I came from, we had huge classes at elementary and middle level in my public school and little misbehavior, we were well-organized. I immediately noticed the "chaos" out here, as students pretty much do what they want.
I get the sense that teachers here may not wish to get involved and therefore by default permit some bullying to occur. It's a hassle to get involved. Some parents here are apparently threatening and litigious instead of taking responsibility for their children's appalling behavior (witness the hazing that occurred at PALY last fall - some parents whose children were suspended went to war against the PALY administration instead of disciplining their children).
I know here is some ethnically-based bullying/isolating that occurs in PAUSD at HS level; this is offensive and you might be surprised who is doing it.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 28, 2009 at 8:40 am

look at FORMER school board members


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Posted by PA Dad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 28, 2009 at 11:07 am

PA Dad is a registered user.

>For some reason, Palo Alto has some parents who wish to build
>their children into the type who wishes to steamroller others
>"in their way." "Win at any cost" and "Ends (cheating,
>plagiarizing) justifies the means" (Ivy admission) also rules.
>Witness PALY's two graduation speakers who were students found
>to have plagiarized their speeches and were rewarded with
>Stanford and Ivy acceptances.

Perhaps the list of students involved should be forwarded to the Admissions departments at Stanford, Cal, Harvard and other target schools? At a minimum the PARENTS of the involved kids should be made aware of their children's behavior.

(It occurs to me that some HS Seniors are 18; if so, could they be subject to cyber-stalking and slander laws?)

This may be a tempest in a teacup for some, but I'd rather not wait until some child commits suicide because of cyber-harrassment. Too late -- that already happened.

Imagine the community outrage if the targeted child had been black or gay. THEN the tempest would overflow the teacup.

The parent who already monitors her child's Facebook account is exectly correct. Although monitoring might not always be enough. Sometimes we actually need to discipline our kids.

Is there a parent of one of the cyber-bullies who would like to comment here?


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 28, 2009 at 11:15 am

This was well publicized last June - since the 2 seniors who had the honor of making Paly's graduation speeches did the plagiarizing FOR the graduation speech, school authorities said their hands were tied. It was too late to have consequences and notify the universities. There was some speculating, not by me, that students who do this then probably also did it earlier, since you would likely have a pattern of behavior that they found "acceptable."
If such behavior had been caught during the school year there would have been penalties per the student handbook. AS far as I know, the two students went on their merry way on to Stanford (and the other to Brown, I think-)
That's all water under the bridge, but it was a terrible example of so-called student leaders for the younger students, particularly in these times when we are in such need of ethical behavior.


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Posted by PA PARENT2
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 28, 2009 at 11:47 am

"This was well publicized last June - since the 2 seniors who had the honor of making Paly's graduation speeches did the plagiarizing FOR the graduation speech, school authorities said their hands were tied. It was too late to have consequences and notify the universities. There was some speculating, not by me, that students who do this then probably also did it earlier, since you would likely have a pattern of behavior that they found "acceptable."

If such behavior had been caught during the school year there would have been penalties per the student handbook. AS far as I know, the two students went on their merry way on to Stanford (and the other to Brown, I think-)

That's all water under the bridge, but it was a terrible example of so-called student leaders for the younger students, particularly in these times when we are in such need of ethical behavior."


The Palo Alto HS handbook was updated this summer to seemingly include consequences for the above behavior, even if it's outside of the school day but during some school activity. My son (Sophomore) and I read it together and wondered about the connection. I think graduation speeches would fall into this category.


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Posted by Water polo dad
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 28, 2009 at 2:54 pm

While it might be generally true that kind parents have kind children that would not want to engage in cyber-bullying, the students often get mixed messages from school personnel about how acceptable bullying is. The district is currently hosting talks about bullying among students, and I applaud whoever is coordinating these; they're along overdue. At the same time, they seem to condone bullying coaches at the high school level, who have a huge effect on students' psyches and feelings about themselves. I'm disappointed, but not shocked, about the cyber-bullying that took place last week. Requiring the students who've participated in this to attend a 3-hour Saturday morning presentation/discussion about bullying facilitated by someone who is knowledgeable about these issues and good at talking with teens seems like a step in the right direction to me.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 28, 2009 at 3:05 pm

As far as I know, the parents of the involved kids were not notified of their child's involvement. Perhaps all the parents should be contacted. With a couple student directories, we could call them all!


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Posted by No way
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 28, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Why should the school deal with what some random kids did on the Internet? Just because they attend PAUSD schools?

It is the parents job to monitor what their kids do. Stop trying to pass the buck.


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Posted by tyrone jones
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 28, 2009 at 5:57 pm

i agree with no way. whoever posted this is probably the overprotective parent of some kid who has been "bullied" and they are trying to fight there child's battles for them. Kids need to solve their own problems.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 28, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Tyrone - this was a middle school kid attacked online - including many threats of physical harm - by 100 high school students who he/she had never met. I don't think anyone could be protective enough in this case.


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Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 28, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Does cyber/web behavior necessitate a different way of thinking about what is or is not part of school?

Let me try out a theory here - I can see how a school/district can't claim jurisdiction over their students' actions off of school grounds if we're talking about drinking, fighting, etc. However, in a way, a Facebook group or other cyberstalking does not know those borders. You can set it up outside of school, but it "exists" in the school as much as it "exists" outside of school, and if it is still online during school hours, then it is an ongoing harrassment.

Does that help?

Then, if the information is posted or accessed by students on campus during the school day, even by cell phones, then I think the case gets stronger. And if posted or accessed on school equipment, then even more so.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 1, 2009 at 12:41 am

"Perhaps the list of students involved should be forwarded to the Admissions departments at Stanford, Cal, Harvard and other target schools? At a minimum the PARENTS of the involved kids should be made aware of their children's behavior."

Very good idea. I support this. Someone must notify the universities. It would behoove the parent of the abused child and the school district to do so.


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Posted by bruce
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2009 at 11:22 am

What is up with the current crop of kids ... or is it their parents who (didn't) raise them? This is sickening. Send them to Iraq/Afghanistan and show them they need to be able to work together and depend on each other.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Mar 1, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Poor choices made by the kids involved. Plain and simple. There is absolutely no responsibility here by the district and I really hope no one is threatening to sue the district over this. If any entity is to blame it's Facebook and god knows they have a lot more money to pay a lawsuit than our school district does.


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Posted by Rational, I believe
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 1, 2009 at 4:15 pm

I don't think anybody is condoning this behavior. But if it didn't happen at school or on the way to or from school, the district has no basis to discipline the kids, even if they wanted to. In this town, don't you think (1) the schools would come down on these kids if they could and (2) if it wasn't legal, the district would be sued for damaging a kid's chances to go to Harvard or Stanford?

This seems like another case where we are asking the schools to solve all the world's problems. Whoever posted this, even if you are angry at the kids who did this, transferring the anger to the school district might make you feel better, but doesn't help in any other way.


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Posted by time for a change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Oh please people just listen to yourself the next time you talk about someone that is not in your political party or someone who lives north/south of you or someone who has a different opinion than you do. Then you will figure out where these kids are learning this behavior. Listen to how the press treats people that they do not really know. Our lives are full of gossip and self centered opinions. Just read the online responses to many topics to hear the hate regarding most subjects.

I agree that what the group did was wrong but the group targeted a public Utube video posted by a person that the group did not know. They were acting much like or press does or the posters on this forum do on a daily basis.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2009 at 5:33 pm

100+ kids sounds a lot, but it is a small group of our high school students. The vast majority do know better.

For those who don't, and for those who want to blame facebook, or PAUSD, then think again. This is the type of behavior parents need to control. It is parents who are the moral teachers to their kids and we do not need or expect the schools or even facebook to do it for us. Don't pass parental responsibility to anyone else. If it wasn't done by cyberspace it would be done by post it notes on the back (there is even a tv ad showing how this is done) saying "kick me". This is not new behavior, just an adaption of the same behavior using modern technology.

Get the parents to discipline their kids, starting in elementary school, and the teenagers will know the difference between right and wrong. Blaming the schools, the technology or anything else is just an excuse. If the parents are too busy and use tv or babysitters to raise their kids and spend all their family time discussing grades, academics or college choices, then this just might be the consequences.

Get back to basics. Teach good behavior to your own kids and set them good examples. Don't expect others to fill in the blanks and if your own kid is a victim, talk to the parents of the other child, not the school. But, be careful to hear both sides of the story first.


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Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Is anyone actually BLAMING the school for this? I don't think so. I think people are saying that since these kids seem to be out of control and have oblivious parents, it would behoove the school to alert the parents that what happened came to the school's attention, that child X was involved, and that if such behavior comes to the attention of the school again the parents should be aware that it violates school poligy on bullying and creating a hostile school environment and will be subject to discipline, *regardless* of whether the child used school computers or did it from off campus. Is this really so unimaginable? The reason people are suggesting the school alert the parents is that the parents don't seem to be controlling their kids or teaching them basic human kindness. Or lack of unkindness. Or just decency. If my kid were involved and somehow it did not get on my radar, I would WELCOME a letter from the school telling me about this shenanigan so I could get on my kid like nobody's business.


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Posted by PA PARENT2
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 1, 2009 at 7:58 pm

DID YOU EVEN LOOK AT THE TITLE OR FIRST FEW POSTS???

The title is: PAUSD Allows Cyber-Hate at Paly & Gunn


How is that not blaming the school district?


------


re: Posted by but seriously, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, 35 minutes ago

Is anyone actually BLAMING the school for this? I don't think so. I think people are saying that since these kids seem to be out of control and have oblivious parents, it would behoove the school to alert the parents that what happened came to the school's attention, that child X was involved, and that if such behavior comes to the attention of the school again the parents should be aware that it violates school poligy on bullying and creating a hostile school environment and will be subject to discipline, *regardless* of whether the child used school computers or did it from off campus. Is this really so unimaginable? The reason people are suggesting the school alert the parents is that the parents don't seem to be controlling their kids or teaching them basic human kindness. Or lack of unkindness. Or just decency. If my kid were involved and somehow it did not get on my radar, I would WELCOME a letter from the school telling me about this shenanigan so I could get on my kid like nobody's business."


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Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2009 at 8:22 pm

PA Parent2, please don't shout at me. No one is blaming the school for the children's behavior. They are questioning why the cshool bothers to have a policy that is either so vague as to be unenforceable, or that it chooses not to enforce it even though it directly contributes to a hostile environment, which is forbidden by the PAUSD policies. Particularly in this year when hazing and hateful, bullying behavior in Palo Alto have gotten a LOT of press.

Do you think the kids should be allowed to go their merry way without their parents so much as being notified? If so, would you still feel that way if it were your child and he had to look forward starting high school next year with 100 strangers who have publicly avowed their hatred for him -- in a school that doesn't feel it can even take a stand on teh subject? If so, well, we'll have to agree to disagree.


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Posted by online
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 1, 2009 at 8:43 pm

The kid or his parents put videos on YouTube. At that point the kid is going to get feedback and some comments.It makes him a public figure. There are lots of I HATE groups on facebook. It's part of what you get by putting something online.

I don't condone the facebook groups, but if you put YouTube videos on the Internet, you're going to get feedback, good, bad, and sometimes hateful.

I wouldn't be putting videos of my 12 year old son on the Internet. This is what can happen.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Since I was the one who used the word blame, I will take back that word and explain that I mean expect facebook or PAUSD to deal with the situation. Obviously, the blame is on the kids themselves who bully, but it seems as if many are expecting fb or PAUSD to deal with it, inform the families, and punish those bullying. I think it is too much to expect the school district to monitor everyone of its students internet activities, particularly when most of these activities are done in the library or at homes, or even on iphones. The schools can only be responsible for what goes on in the school site during the school day, and even then, it is unrealistic to expect them to monitor everything a student may or may not do. They are not supernanny, they are not there to fill that role.


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Posted by Rational, I believe
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 2, 2009 at 7:49 am

Resident:

It is good to see you take back the blame. Yet you still want to have the school district "punish" these kids. How? If your child did this and the school suspended your kid, I guarantee you would fight the district, and win. I would expect the school district to investigate to see if there was any connection with the school and a well-placed call home would be appropriate. I bet this happened.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 2, 2009 at 8:59 am

Rational - the district did nothing. No phone calls to parents, nothing. The parents of these kids (who were part of the Gunn High School network and Paly High School network on FB) have no idea that their kids were involved. That said, the district really doesn't have a responsibility to punish these kids, though I suspect if the same comments were aimed at the Paly or Gunn principals, their reaction might be totally different.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2009 at 9:00 am

Rational

You did not read my post correctly. I said that many want the school district to punish the kids. I certainly don't think the district can or should punish the kids.

Reading through this thread there are many comments about how the schools should monitor what the kids do in their spare time. I think that this is expecting the schools to take over parenting roles. It is the parents who should be monitoring their kids, not the schools.

And if my own kids were involved, I would deal with it and not expect the schools to intervene, you are right there. I certainly would not even try to "fight" the district because this society is all too ready to fight for conceived rights instead of finding ways to work round problems. It is this fight mentality that is getting into our kids. They are not learning the lessons of how to get on with people or ideas they don't agree with from the adults surrounding them. I would never get my kids to fight for some ideal, instead I would teach them how to reach a compromise or find another less antagonistic approach. Those that teach their kids to fight for rights are causing big problems for their kids and society as a whole in the future.

When I was young, I was taught to get along with everyone and to find a middle ground. If that couldn't be done, then I was taught to find a sensible way around the problem. I don't ever remember a situation where this didn't work. Today's attitudes of fight for your rights mentality makes for either/or as the only way. Usually there are lots of inbetweens, but we never seem to hear about anyone looking for that. We all have to live together and it is a good lesson to learn on how to do that successfully without demanding.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2009 at 10:39 am

I asked my kid if she knew anything about it (she said no) and checked her FB page just to be sure. What would I want the school to do? Seems like they have their plates for, now they have to supervise FB behavior?


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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:08 am

Gunn mom, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Feb 27, 2009 at 3:50 pm

What a storm in a teacup!
---------------------------------------
just imagine that someone on this forum knows who you are made physical threats against you and that there would be a ganging up on you so that you wouldn't feel safe all the time.
and if this is not bad enough to want to hurt you (that's what bullying is) imagine that you are 12 years old and all the emotional consequences that those hate actions entail.

To make such brute, coarse comment is bad citizenship but maybe it just reflects the parents you were unfortunate to have.... Pity on you...


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Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:10 am

What should the school do? Let's see: at a minimum, I would expect the principal to come out with a statement to the entire school community that this type of mobbing is really toxic and inappropriate and that we would like our children to remember that their target is a real person. Let's have the district either stop prtending to care about cyber bullying, or enforce its policies. The worst problem with bullying in Palo Alto is that the cshools and districts have rules but everyone knows they are not enforced.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:45 am

"Perhaps the list of students involved should be forwarded to the Admissions departments at Stanford, Cal, Harvard and other target schools? At a minimum the PARENTS of the involved kids should be made aware of their children's behavior."

Hold on just a minute!

I'm not sure how many of you are on Facebook or are familiar with how it works. Do you know that you can't actually see what's going on in a Group or on a Group page without actually becoming a member of the Group?

I don't know the exact circumstances of the Group page or what comments were made by whome on the page but I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that the majority of the 100+ kids joined the group just to see what was going on and that the actual bullying and comments were made by just a few. Maybe some of the kids joined the group with the good intentions to try to protect the child involved. High school revolves around drama and kids look for anything exciting in this sleepy town.

Some of you are jumping to conclusions and are willing to put these kids' entire futures in jeaopardy with one instance that may or may have not been done with malicious intent. PLEASE let people get all the facts before you trash these kids and their reputations.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:56 am

I am relatively new to PA - we had an incident of this at our old Middle School (not in CA) and what the Principal did was send out an all school bulletin telling parents about the website and telling them that it had been shut down. I do not believe the school had anything to do with shutting it down but they did let parents know what was going on and did encouraged them to have the discussion with their children. I would really question if PAUSD has an legal right to take any action here. If a child beats someone up on a Saturday, can the school suspend that child?

As for parents monitoring their child's Facebook - good luck - kids are making up names to open accounts - so while you may be a "friend" and can monitor what they are doing with that account - you can not always be sure what is going on.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Did the kids actually know the person who was the target of the Facebook group or was the group a reaction to the YouTube videos?


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Posted by midtownmum
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:22 am

As a parent who actually saw the Facebook entry - I can let all the worried parents out there know that this was just a retaliation ti the youtube video. Most of the kids did not know the kid and did not mean to bully the child. As another poster mentioned when you post something on youtube to publicise your child you should take into account that publicity can also harm you. I am not condoning this action in any way but I agree that in this case - we should all calm down.


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Posted by Bryan Long
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:43 am

Cyberbullying is real, and serious, and at the same time only one more way new way that kids can be cruel. Social cruelty may be rooted in our evolution, for it is seen in animals of many species. But it is in the best interest of society to suppress cruelty tactics and promote tolerance. The responsibility to do so starts with parents, but certainly extends to teachers and the schools. Appropriate reaction to the incident under discussion would be some sort of communication to all students and parents in the school, not just the parents of the kids involved, about what happened, why it is wrong, and encouraging positive discussion. Parents should know about this so that they don't think "That doesn't happen here", and so they can directly ask their child if they took part. The child may lie, but they will get the message.

That said, our kids also get other messages. They live in a society in which professional bullies are often very successful -- I'm thinking Rush Limbaugh, Rudi Guiliani, or that one judge on American Idol. As was mentioned before, just look at any political blog and you will see the anonymous commenters making saying nasty thinks about each other. We have lots of opportunities to give our kids lessons based on our own bad behavior, and I don't think we should be starting a movement to publicly pillory these kids or send their names to the colleges. I find it interesting that only one person in this conversation (now two) have used their real names.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:48 am

So midtownmum -- when multiple other children from the town in which you live publicly opine (and, yes, it was public until the group was removed) that YOUR child ought to be physically mutilated (because that's what more than a few advocated) you'll be telling us that it's no big deal, right?


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Posted by question
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:10 pm



what was on the youtube video?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Bryan

Now you may see why so many of us do not use our own names on this blog - it is not to protect ourselves, but to protect our kids.


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Posted by cara
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Its the responsibility of the parent to know what their kids are doing on FaceBook or any other online venue. Stop trying to blame the schools and step up and be a parent.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Cara - no one is blaming the schools, although PAUSD is developing a cyberbullying policy.

The youtube video was of a child singing - nothing worth threatening physical harm over. To the parent who read the posts, perhaps it was early in the process, the threats got worse and worse...


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 3, 2009 at 3:19 pm

I strenuously disagree with bullying. That aside -
100+ Paly and Gunn High school students sure have a lot of time on their hands to be able to be involved in this nonsense. This blasts a hole in the idea that they are all "superachievers," dutifully doing schoolwork or community service all the time.


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Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 3, 2009 at 6:57 pm

If anyone has the names of the posters onto Facebook, those names should be given to the schools because Paly, at least, allows kids time on the social networks from the school computers during school time. Just as a kid returning to school after a time in 'juvy' (if he/she isn't directed to continuation school), kids returning to school after a publicly noted instance of serious misbehavior ought to be watched for a while. Perhaps cut off their time on social networks—computers only for typing school work. No access to computers on the web and serious consequences to other kids who allow them to borrow their account numbers.

It is too bad that adult censure means so little to many kids. But then they don't aspire to become "adults" who resemble any adults they know. They want to become adults as defined by the teen tribe to which they belong.


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Posted by MM
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:48 pm

This is absolutely not the schools problem. As a student of Gunn High, I know very well that the school could not have effectively done anything to prevent or fix this. The kids involved should be blamed, and their parents should be notified, but it is silly to blame the school.

Also, I would like to point out that I see a lot of insulting of each other here on this website which is useless, and that since most of you are parents, you probably have better things to do.


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Posted by Caroe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 3, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Another Columbine in the making? What if all of the people blaming others --parents, teachers, kids--changed their mind-set & all decided they were to blame & attempted to do something.


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Posted by PARes
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 3, 2009 at 9:48 pm

I've lived in Palo Alto nearly my entire life, and I'm increasingly disturbed by the place it has become. Have the parents who paid so much to live in this school district decided to sell their children's hearts and souls in exchange for a high test score or a shot at an Ivy League education? Note to those parents -- if you open your eyes and look around in the world a bit, you will quickly see that this is not a race, and there is no grand prize - in fact, there's not even a finish line. You can have all the Ivy League degrees in the world, but if you have not learned how to be a positive, contributing member of a community, or how to conduct your life and your interactions with respect, integrity, compassion and dignity, all those APs and Ivy League degrees are worthless.

Absolutely parents are responsible for their children's character development and values. But as any psychologist (or parent of a teen) will tell you, the peer group influence is often vastly more powerful than the parental influence during the teen years. Since the peer groups largely arise from schools, schools need to be involved in these bullying issues.

From the PAUSD website, its mission and values are listed as: (1) Strive for academic excellence; (2)Acquire the knowledge and skills that support learning; (3) Value creativity and life-long learning; (4)Demonstrate respect for self and others; (5) Participate meaningfully in our democratic society and interdependent global community. It seems to me that vicious, gratuitous cyberbullying attacks like this one are in direct violation of the points (4) and (5) - and for this reason the school board not only should address this, it is obligated to do so (at least if it intends for the mission statement to have any credibility).

Lastly, it's my understanding that effective Jan 1, 2009 a new CA law went into effect requiring schools to establish policies on cyberbulling and allowing schools to suspend or expel students who are cyberbullies. Web Link
I would say that this is a very clear mandate that not only should the schools get involved, they must.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:18 pm

That's an interesting point about the new laws directing schools to have cyber-bullying policy. Do we have such a policy yet, though? Also, is the younger child here a student at PAUSD? Presumably not at Gunn or Paly. So somewhat hard to see how the FB group would disrupt the educational process, which seems to be the standard for actions to draw educators' attention.

I'm not a big fan of putting burden on the schools to do what others can/should do. But I am a fan of giving educators tools to use to control the environment and accomplish their mission, and the discretion to use them as they deem appropriate. I view these new laws in that light - a tool for administrators, not an obligation.


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Posted by Palo altan on iPod
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Another columbine? What happens outside of school happens outside of school. It is sad that this happened, but comparing cyberbullying/rading/ the clicking of a button by a student not considering the consequences of joining a group is a FAR cry from that tragedy. Please do not use that term lightly, out of respect for those who died there if nothing else.


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Posted by A. Ha
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2009 at 2:28 am

Simply put, this is why many families choose private school. Not that private schools are perfect - many are far from perfect - but private school administrations have the will and ability to humble or remove students who hurt or bully others.


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Posted by PARes
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:47 am

I have to preface this with saying that I know none of the kids involved in this incident, nor do I have kids in any of the schools in question. So I am truly a third party bystander to this whole thing, which I witnessed on FB.

For those of you who think this is "not that big a deal" or who think the school district should not be involved, I sincerely hope this is because you did not see this FB group. One poster channeled his inner Nazi as he described torturing this kid. There were numerous homophobic attacks. The discussion thread was something like "What would be your final move in a fight with this kid?" followed by numerous violent, graphic posts of torture, mutilation and death. The group was started in response to a benign You Tube video of the victim, who appears to be a very talented young actor, performing a song. Midtown mom - with what logic do you state that the violence and threats expressed in the FB group are simple "retaliation" for the YouTube video? Was there some hidden message of hate directed at these Gunn students in the YouTube video? Or have we just stooped so low on the scale of humanity that we are going to say "he asked for it"? This is complete insanity.

Is this Columbine? No. No lives were lost here, but the obvious pleasure that an alarmingly large number of kids took in the completely gratuitous and very public, violent threats against this child is symptomatic of the kinds of unhealthy psychological development (that we collectively are ignoring and even endorsing) that give rise to a Columbine-like situation. Maybe the only thing that is preventing it is that going on a murderous rampage at your school significantly diminishes your chance of getting into Stanford.

I hope that the victim is doing okay and pulls through this emotionally and I suspect he will. The psychological dysfunction expressed by the kids who posted on the group suggests to me that over the long run, they are going to be the ones with the most severe problems. To all those parents who think the schools shouldn't do anything, if 10-20 years from now your kid is hospitalized with crippling depression or jailed for sociopathic behaviors, please don't come back and blame the schools for having done nothing.

This is everyone's fault and everyone's responsibility -- the parents, the kids, the school district, the community. We all need to do our best to raise kids who are not only academically prepared to face the world by psychologically prepared to face the world as well. Every time we fail to act or turn a blind eye, we are tacitly endorsing what goes on around us. Every time we fail to speak up, we are modeling cowardice to our children.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 9:43 am

It seems that there are two different things going on here. Firstly, someone started a facebook group and invited friends to join. When they joined the group, they discovered that there was bullying going on. Some probably chose to join in and the comments got worse, but others just ignored the bullying. But, these who joined the group but did not join in the bullying did nothing, or very little wrong. Yes, they may have been able to leave the group, but most probably closed the page and never gave it more thought. Their names were still there as group members, but all they had done was look in on something and decided to not participate.

Now they are all being tarred by the same brush. There are many facebook groups called "I hate ...." from John McCain to peanut butter. To join one of these would be considered normal, because it is just a moment's fancy. To join a group to see what is being discussed when it may be purely a different of opinions is a very different thing than posting hateful and worse remarks.

I have no idea what the child did on his YouTube to start this. But his action did mean that he wanted people to watch it. If he had been singing in a real talent show as opposed to a virtual talent show he would not have expected to receive completely rave reviews of his talent, but would have expected a polite reaction and not pelting with rotten tomatoes. For those to dislike his performance enough to start a facebook group about it seems that they are the ones who should be held to blame. Those who then joined the group and started the bad comments are then to be held accountable for their actions. Those who joined the group to see what the group was about and then not joining in the insults is no worse than someone walking away from an argument between others that had nothing to do with them. Just because they were "members" of this group did not mean that they held the same point of view, just foolish to join something without "leaving" and being judged accordingly.

This perhaps is where education should come in. Most teenagers do not worry about the footprints they are leaving all over the internet. Whether it is a photograph of themselves or their friends doing something foolish, to making a foolish comment, they do not realise that this is not going to disappear but stay there forever. The difference between appropriate behavior in the real world to appropriate behavior in the virtual world is not apparent, and the difference between inappropriate behavior in both is magnified because of the fact that what is posted remains for ever.

This is a prime example of a situation where a couple of bored teenagers on a Friday evening can start a deluge of which they no longer have control. A hard lesson for any of us to learn, but learn it we must.


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Posted by Basic Value
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Mar 4, 2009 at 1:05 pm

My kids have enjoyed every bit of their elementry school times and going to middle school soon, and this incident just make me worry so much. Not only the incident itself, and some of the postings in this topic also worries me. I have been in PTA, and I always believe that parents and school MUST work TOGETHER in education.

I do think the school needs to notify all parents, not just the ones involved, and provide some resources, such as education links to help parents in discussing this topic with their children. It seems more people worried about "law" and "punishment", and forgot that what you should really worriy about - Your Child! I think all parents want to raise a loving and caring child. If your child got involved, don't you should worry about him/or her behavior first? If you igore telling your child life basic value and have a serious discussion with them; instead, you worry about what school will do and how to not get in trouble, what kind of message is to the child? "it is OK unless you get caught?"

As of the school district, not fight for the "blame", you should think yourself as an "educator" first, and think what is the best for the victim kid, and what is the best for the involved kids, what is the best way to guide them to be the youth who can take the basic life value.

I am disappointed since the school district thinks about "how can I not got into trouble" first. You lost the value of an educator.


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Posted by PARes
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 4, 2009 at 1:40 pm

I am not "blaming" the kids who simply joined the group. In fact, in order to post on the group's page, you needed to join the group. A few brave kids actually posted in defense of the victim, saying he was a nice kid and they liked him and the Gunn kids should back off (these kids, trying to do the right thing, were immediately flamed into silence). If you are at all familiar with how kids use Facebook, it's also true that kids will click on "join" for any group that their friends are in without reading anything about the group or knowing what it is for.

I don't think there has been any suggestion by anyone that the 100+ kids who joined should be held accountable, since they could have joined for a variety of reasons (including coming to the defense of the victim). I think the issue is about the appropriate consequence for the kids who posted the really vicious, violent comments and threats.

The 100+ group members is significant insofar as that the speed with which the group grew to this size sends a very twisted message to our youth as to the power and status you can obtain by behaving badly at the expense of another human being. By way of contrast, the kids who voiced an opinion for basic human decency and compassion were immediately silenced and that message never caught fire. What's the lesson there?


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Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 4, 2009 at 4:30 pm

How incredibly wonderful and heartening to learn that some kids actually came to this kid's defense. Their parents should be so proud. The ones who joined and then just silently walked away have not learned that every bully needs a bystander. They too are culpable, but most will never realize that silence = consent because that isn't a lesson I see taught around here very much at all.

The parent who said the kid basically got what he deserved because his parent posted this video on U-Tube is exactly the sort of parent who exacerbates these problems. The school is not responsible, the parents shouldn't have to monitor the kids, and the kid deserved to be publicly attacked and threatened with violence. Reality check for you: this kid is in middle school, which means he is moving on to high school pretty soon. And if you think knowing some of those 100+ attackers will be there is not daunting and hostile, then I have a bridge to sell you.

As my own kids grow older and I try so hard to teach them to stand up for what is right, protect others who are being hurt or bullied, and just be kind and respectful of others, I see more and more the gap betwen the values I am trying to instill and those of a majority of Palo Alto parents, who care most about their kid getting a special deal, getting "ahead," and not having to face consequences that might in some way jeopardize their future Ivy League career or, frankly, in any way teach their children that their behavior is unkind and inappropriate. How pathetic and depressing.

But this is epidemic in Silicon Valley and the Peninsula as a whole. It is not the special product of Palo Alto public schools. In many private schools as well, it is just the same thing, with more money behind the bullies.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 4:47 pm

But Seriously, you encounter a different crowd than I do. The families my high school and middle schooler hang around with seem like perfectly nice people with good values and good intentions. Wanting to go to a good/elite college does not in my mind imply "get ahead at all costs" - it just implies "get ahead." If we view "getting ahead" as undesirable, then I am in the wrong town. I'm pleased with the number of "strivers" among my kids' friends.

On the FB group - it does seem a little off that a kid posts a note on a FB page about a kid who did not attend his school, and the school would be expected to contact families or even discipline the student. If the teacher seems a kid trash talking at the mall, is she obligated to call the parents? We need to take care about putting burden on the schools outside their educational mission.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:00 pm

I have a basis for comparison between Palo Alto and out of area/out of state high schools and students since I have known many: and in my opinion, Palo Alto teens TEND TO BE more self-centered, entitled, get ahead at any cost in their actions I have observed/statements I have heard. Nothing is universal, but you do tend to find overly proud teens here.

Lots of people post stuff on YouTube without becoming the subject of a "I hate..." facebook page. Someone was acting like this was an expected result to putting up a video.

Yes, just clicking/joining a PALY/Gunn facebook out of curiosity does not necessarily mean a teen is "mean," BUT writing some of the hateful comments is over the line. That required a decision and deliberate action.


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Posted by liz
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 10:16 pm

I was a student at Gunn many years ago after moving here from out of state. I found that the students were MUCH nicer and better behaved than the kids at my old school. That said, when a bullying problem arose, the school seemed especially incompetent at dealing with it. The kids were left to deal with harassment until the offender basically grew out of it.

If this happens in a workplace, the offender is reprimanded. If not, the harassed employee can look for a new job, and/or sue the bully. Kids don't have any recourse. Very unfair. I wish schools would take this more seriously.


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Posted by Fact checking
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Mar 4, 2009 at 10:58 pm

For those of you who still insist that the school district should have done something about this needs to carefully read the district policy document that ALL parents must sign when their children are enrolled. It's very clear.

The responsibility here solely lies with the kids involved and their parents and I hope all of those parents were called by someone who knew what was going on.


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Posted by concernedPA parent
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 6, 2009 at 10:10 pm

I have been late in finding out about this, but I do know the victim and saw the you tube postings he has. The kid is incredibly talented and creative and there was nothing provocative or unusual. My kids and I were shown these postings a few months ago by one of our babysitters (a wonderful Paly student) and we all expressed awe at his talent. We were blown away. There was nothing to note but to enjoy an incredibly talented kid. So to the couple of postings including "I have no idea what the child did on his you tube to start this.." the answer is NOTHING! And to mid town mom, you truly seem to feel he was asking for it. Get a grip! He is an artist and as many artists do, he showcased his talent on you tube. Threatening violence is not okay! If there is a law in place as someone commented, then the kids posting threatening material should be penalized to the full extent.

And for those of you past elementary schools, the steps to respect program being implemented at many schools would not let those off the hook that came to look, saw what was happening but walked away and told no one. That is disturbing as well. Perhaps if any of those kids had gone through such a program this would not have happened. I am heartened by the fact that many came to his defense.

The parents of these kids need to take a long hard look at themselves and their kids. Time to wake up before it's too late!


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Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2009 at 1:54 pm

It's interesting to read the various comments and reactions to the recent cyber-bullying. As a high school teacher, I'm shocked that some posters like "Me Too" believe that it's not the school's responsibility to address this type of thing. While I agree that the school administrators should not try to punish students for something they did away from school, the fact that this took place indicates a need to look at why it's happening, to have a school-wide discussion about it and to make it clear to students that it's terribly wrong. Teaching isn't only about imparting knowledge. If we're graduating a bunch of adolescents who know how to score well on tests but find it enjoyable to attack someone that they don't even know, albeit on Facebook, we have a huge problem. As another poster said, "If we turn a blind eye, we are tacitly endorsing this."
Those of us who believe that teaching values is important need to be more vocal in this community. There are quite a few parents who don't and model poor behavior to their kids. It's not surprising that the high schools have a problem with cheating, with over-competitiveness in sports (to the point that athletes will sometimes do undermining things to other athletes to increase their own opportunities) and with bullying, as reported in the recent survey of Paly and Gunn students. Maybe a good place to start, at Paly at least, would be in the advisories. In addition to giving info. about the college application process and other important matters, they could have teacher-led discussions once or twice a month about cheating, cyber-bullying, etc.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Midtown Mom, while we disagree, you provide support for my point. If the schools need to deal with school-based issues like cheating (epidemic according to some), in-school bullying, over-competitiveness in sports and elsewhere - do they really have resources to consistently police and discipline online behavior, in this case directly against a child who does not attend the school of the perpetrators? Rather than expand the scope of their responsibility, I would like to see them do a better job with what they have - particularly cheating, which is very hard for parents to detect and discipline, but vital to control. If the school becomes aware of something and wants to notify the parents - that seems appropriate. If the children disrupt the educational environment, then the school must take action. While I strongly disapprove of what these children did, it is their parents, not the school, that should be responsible for monitoring and meting out the discipline.

On the slightly separate topic of values - you want the school to do more to teach values - I view that as my job as a parent, and it is a job I take seriously. Academic values are fine and appropriate, even necessary. But it seems in this case like you may not agree with the values of some of the parents (the "poor models" you mention) and want to impart your values instead. I'm not sure that is desirable - why do you think your values should trump those of the parents? How should I feel if you disagree with my values (maybe you do) and want to teach different values to my child? How would you feel if I were your child's teacher taught different values to him or her?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Midtown Mom

I am one of those who feel that it is not the schools responsibility to address this type of thing. This is not a case of the schools turning a blind eye to the situation and therefore condoning it, more a case of putting a responsibility on the school which in fact should be a parents responsibility.

I have no real idea how the machinery of the school checking out what is happening on facebook would work. I can't see the district employing someone with the title facebook czar looking to see what the students are doing on line.

When something like this happens and they are alerted, they can then state their position and perhaps alert their counselors or whatever means of communication to the student body that this is not appropriate behavior. This would not be turning a blind eye, but supporting whatever actions the parents themselves are taking, even informing the parents of the miscreants where necessary. But, I do not think the schools should suspend, or in any way take action to punish students for what happens outside school in any long term manner.

Turning the schools into judge and jury in a case like this is not their role. Nothing is cut and dry when it comes to participation and without knowing the full details of what an individual did and why and allowing them to be fully able to defend themselves in this action. I know for a fact that it is possible for one student to get onto another's facebook page, pretending to be the first and doing things that this student would not chose to do themselves. Their passwords are less secret than their locker combinations and many forget to log out after using their page, particularly in places like libraries or other shared computers, even at home.

For the miscreants to own up to what they have done and acknowledge their mistakes to their own parents and to make recompense in a suitable manner as well as any discipline that their parents find appropriate makes most sense to me. Alerting colleges or any other method of long term discipline which prevents them leading the life of their dreams is not appropriate.

How many of us as parents did something foolish as teenagers which we are truly glad is long behind us and would not have wanted to follow us into adulthood? I myself never did anything to hurt another individual physically or emotionally, but know of several things which I am glad I do not have to be reminded of. Good teenagers who make a foolish mistake should not have to carry it with them into adulthood.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2009 at 8:31 pm

I recall reading that at least one PALY top administrator used to check online what PALY students were posting - either MySpace of Facebook. Not sure what is done this year. I am certain I read this in PALY journalism - either the student newspaper or online, or in local PA newspapers. Didn't relate to bullying; I THINK it may have related to whether students were partying/drinking and going to dances/prom.


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Posted by "member"
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2009 at 8:20 am

I am a teacher in the Palo Alto district; I spend time with these kids every day. By and large they are good kids. But they ARE kids. They are trying to define who they are, and they use Facebook as one means to negotiate those definitions. There are bound to be places where they cross the boundaries, even egregiously, as they do this. We are here to GUIDE them through that process. It's new territory - we all have to explore it together. Think of it as the "Wild West" in the frontier days - sometimes there was no Town Marshall around, and the citizens had to band together COOPERATIVELY to figure out how to solve the problem....

That said, I have to point out something vitally important. I have your child in my classroom 4 hours per week. How much time do YOU spend with him/her? How much influence do you think I actually wield as a teacher in your child's world? I can talk til I'm blue in the face about ethical behavior and the Golden Rule, but if they see their parents blaming everyone else for their problems and the bad consequences of their own behavior, then that's the model they're going to follow. That's the long and short of it. Kids pay a lot more attention to what we DO than to what we SAY.....


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2009 at 10:17 am

We live in an imperfect world; that is a given. Nobody is saying the schools are responsible for the 100 teens' behavior in this case.
Nonetheless, a conscious attempt to model/support polite, decent, ethical behavior in general DOES help youth, even teens. It's a good influence. Leadership, especially from the principal, does make a difference, sets the tone of expectations - I have seen that as I am knowledgeable about more schools than most parents. Throwing up one's hands does not help. Some "enforcement" or discipline is a fact of life in the public school system.


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