OSSINING, N.Y. – While cyberbullying and the negative uses of social media could affect any school district, Ossining School District officials said the school has fortunately not needed to institute a policy or punish any students for their online behavior.
Other school districts, like Hendrick Hudson, have enacted policies that determine a social media code of conduct for students and teachers. But the Ossining School District focuses on educating students on all social media and other online related issues using a new Internet safety curriculum. Interim Superintendent Ray Sanchez said he believes the approach has helped lead to fewer incidents online.
“Internet safety curriculum. We do a lot of education with students about what’s appropriate and what’s not and I’d like to think that has contributed to the lack of issues we’ve faced,” Sanchez said, adding that he did not have any knowledge of students being suspended or expelled for social media reasons. “We have a code of conduct that we would implement but we would have to look at each case individually and we have not had any incidents where we’ve had to do so to my knowledge.”
If a student were to make inflammatory and negative comments to another student or teacher online on personal pages when not on school grounds, the incident would not fall under the district’s responsibility, Sanchez said.
“Obviously we would have discussions with students and the teachers about it but it is out of our hands" if it happens on a personal page, he said. “It’s not always as black and white as one would assume. I think it has to be treated like anything else that happens outside of the schools, absent of the online setting. Obviously we would cooperate in any issues and we would look at what we could do, like we have with other incidents that happen off of school grounds.”
Sanchez said procedures would likely follow a similar process as to the October incident when three junior varsity Sleepy Hollow football players were taken to Phelps Memorial Hospital Center after they were reportedly assaulted in Ossining after a football game with rival Ossining High School. Officials from each district later held assemblies to discuss the incident.
Jeremy Luft, technology director for the Ossining School District, said the district’s policies cover the behavior regardless of where in cyberspace an incident occurs.
“If something happens online and it carries into the school day where we know about it, then that’s where we would fall back on our code of conduct,” Luft said. “Even if behavior starts online, if it works its way into the schools, we would use that information to handle the issue. But we have had nothing that I know of that needed to be handled with suspensions or expulsions.”