Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cyberbullying one “meme” at a time

Students at Augusta, Maine’s Cony High School distinguished themselves this week – but not in a way in which a high school would like to be recognized.

The school is currently ranked #9 on the High School Memes site of top schools in the country.

Not familiar with HSM?

If you’re the parent of a high school student – or any student for that matter – you should be!

The premise behind the recently launched site, according to its home page narrative, is simple:
  • Someone finds pic. Adds caption. Your school LOLs.
  • Classmates add their own caption to same pic – and the meme keeps going.
  • Make sure the meme is specific to YOUR  SCHOOL ONLY! No memes about students, only your school experience!
  • Have fun. Be creative. Be nice. Don’t spoil the fun with bad posts! Flag stuff that’s inappropriate; 2 flags brings the post down.
That’s the premise “in theory.”
 
In reality, the site – at least Cony’s page (and I’m guessing many other schools) – has provided a forum for anonymous, mean-spirited, hate-filled attacks on individual students.
 
Anyone who has read my blog posts on cyberbullying knows my stance on it – one of zero tolerance where offending students need to be disciplined to the greatest degree possible.
 
Kids are killing themselves – or others – every day because of cyber and more traditional bullying.
 
Bullying excused by the weak tagline of “just kidding – “jk” added to it…or not excused at all.
 
In our current society, it seems the personal destruction of one child by another is perfectly acceptable, especially in a small group setting, where true “haters” attack an individual student because he or she is:
  • Popular
  • Different
  • Perceived to be gay
  • Part of a different social group or socioeconomic class
  • Just happens to a target for someone else, for no reason whatsoever
I had a chance to review Cony’s site last night after my wife and various Facebook posts brought it to my attention. 

According to one of the latter, Cony’s recent ranking – based on site visits and activity – was somewhere around 8,000. Now it’s #9.

That a Maine high school has been elevated into the “top 10” by the nature of its degrading and hate-filled posts sickens me.

That the school is in my community – one that many students from my small town attend after graduating from our K-8 program – angers me.

Tremendously.

To the point that I am calling out Cony High School and the High School Memes site in hopes that the site is taken down and the CHS students responsible for some of the posts I read last night are disciplined to the full extent of the school’s “anti-bullying” policy.

To those who would rebuke my comments as an infringement of “freedom of speech,” I disagree.

As a former newspaper journalist, I am well acquainted with freedom of speech.

As a U.S. citizen and, more importantly, a parent and compassionate human being, I believe one’s “freedom of speech” ends when the “speech” is used to damage or destroy another person.

I know Cony High School has planned an all-school assembly today to address the HSM issue and I applaud CHS administrators’ swift action to deal with this issue.

But I hope they realize – as I do – that one assembly is not enough.

Additional steps are needed after it – to identify the perpetrators, punish them accordingly and, in doing so, help deter other students from doing the same in the future.

Constant vigilance is needed against bullying – today, tomorrow, next week, next month - until it stops.

Until our children stop dying needlessly.

And toward this end, I implore other high schools to visit the HSM site while it is still online. Check out where your schools fall in the ranking and the types of “memes” that are being posted.

And then take the steps needed to ensure your school’s ranking continues to drop until it is no longer relevant.

2 comments:

  1. Wow john! This is horrible! I wish there were something I could do to help this! I look forward to getting to know you and Missy through church!

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  2. This really is unsettling. When will people finally see that hiding behind a computer is still just as bad as doing it to a child's face. Heartbreaking.

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