I remember feeling a little bit of anxiety when we launched our 1:1 initiative here at Burlington High School back in the fall of 2011 as I considered what some of the worst things that could happen might be, after handing out mobile devices to over 1,000 students. As we met with groups of students and parents in our auditorium and discussed the shiny new devices with them, I mentioned that one bad decision by a student with one of these new iPads could very well put us on the evening news. After a brief dramatic pause, I asked the following question: Should the possibility of inappropriate actions by a minority of students stop us from providing these resources to the majority?
Of course, the answer here is no. We cannot educate students and open up the necessary level of discourse around the use of technology by teenagers in our communities by limiting access. While I am glad that all of the headlines surrounding the use of technology in Burlington Public Schools have been positive, I have no misconceptions regarding the fact that we have a lot of work to continue to inform and educate our students, parents, and community members on this topic. I was reminded of this as I listened to the Note to Self podcast (embedded below) and heard the story of a community in Colorado that has been in the news due to a sexting issue at its high school.
I am thankful that Cañon City Superintendent of Schools George Welsh spoke openly about this issue to help inform communities across the country regarding the issue of texting. In my mind it is not a question of whether or not it is happening in other school communities, it is a question of how much it is happening in other school communities. Superintendent Welsh’s comments about the importance of connecting with our teenagers and learning about the digital world they spend so much time needs to be a focal point in all communities. In addition, we need to educate parents to help them keep up with the latest technology tricks like the photo vaults that students across the country are using on their phones to hide photos under the guise of a calculator app.
Another concern surrounding the issue of student sexting is how the outdated laws are and how this can impact students legally. This article from US World and News Report provides a good overview of this. I encourage all school leaders to share this information and begin a dialogue within their school communities on this topic and I reiterate my thanks to Superintendent Welsh for his constructive handling of this challenging situation.
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