October 18, 2019
To Our Tenafly District Community,
As the Chief School Administrator for the Tenafly Public Schools, and as a parent myself, I recognize both the benefits and liabilities of social media. It can provide important information quickly, share the great work going on in our classrooms and serve as a tool to promote positive social change. In the past, a family would have to wait for the occasional newsletter or paper update from the district office to know what was happening in their child’s school. Today, with the easy access and instantaneous reach of social media, students and families are in a continuous loop of information. However, this same benefit could potentially become a tremendous liability to the work of the district and/or our community, causing unnecessary distractions and spreading misleading information.
I ask all parents and community members to please read and think about the following points the next time you decide to post about your child’s school and/or our district on social media.
- You are setting an example
- The age-old axiom of “children become what they see” is truer today than ever. Every single time you take to social media and comment on anything, you are sending your child a message about the kind of person you expect him or her to be. Many of us have seen and, unfortunately, have been the target of hurtful personal attacks on social media. Please do not forget that the children are watching
- There is a fine line between venting and viciousness
- As citizens, our community members absolutely have the right to make public comments about what is going on at the national and local levels. This may include the right to comment on our school systems. I would never want to suppress that right or prevent the free exchange of ideas; that is certainly the antithesis of what we teach our students, and it would go against our American values. I would, however, like to remind all members of our community that there is a fine line between appropriately sharing a frustration regarding a situation and using that situation to unload on someone or something. Please do not forget that the children are watching.
- Do not trade in rumors. half-truths, or lies
- Winston Churchill once wrote, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” We have seen this happen time and time again on social media. A lone person will make an inaccurate statement with no support or truth, other people will pick up on it, spread it via their accounts, and all of a sudden what was untrue has now become part of the public conversation. Before accepting anything as truth, please take the time to make sure that what you are passing on is accurate. If it does not appear true, it probably is not. Not only does a half-truth or untruth damage the individual, it can do irreversible harm to the morale of a community and district. Who would want to be part of a community where there is such vile discourse? Please do not forget that the children are watching.
- Just because it is in print, does not mean it is true
- It is easy to write, print and publish just about anything these days, and sometimes readers fall into the trap of thinking that a clean, neat and creatively produced website must be telling the truth. Do not fall into that trap. Instead, take the time to look into the sources and facts that support what you are reading. Do not assume that because something looks professionally produced means that it is accurate and truthful. Please do not forget that the children are watching.
- Don’t be mean
- Cruelty is the lowest form of behavior. We do not tolerate cruelty from our students, and, right now, we can only wish it was not so prevalent on social media. Our schools and community are filled with kind, good, hard-working, well-intentioned and dedicated citizens. Let us agree that respect and courtesy will guide our interactions. There is no need to use foul language or make threats. This does not mean that disagreements will not occur from time to time - after all, having different viewpoints and working through them respectfully is a hallmark of our democracy. But we need to remember that when a person resorts to attacking the messenger and not the message, he/she has already lost. Please do not forget that the children are watching.
- Stick with traditional communication channels
- Over time, school districts have established traditional channels of communication and have also embraced newer ways to reach out to the public. The best source of accurate, authentic and factual information comes from these traditional sources. This does not mean that the curious public should not question and ask for more information, but it does mean that official communication channels still remain the best way to learn about that which is happening in the school district. For us, this is through our website, our Blackboard Communications, our e-mail messages, our newsletters, and our school/district Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Social media, in so many ways has been of tremendous benefit to our community, and it is not going away. The Tenafly Public Schools recognize this and we continue to embrace it by employing instructional strategies with our students that promote its positive use and purpose. And, no matter how private they may believe their communications to be, we routinely emphasize to them that anything on social media is public and permanent.
In closing, we must remember that any tool is only as effective as the way it is used. I ask our families and communities to use the megaphone of social media to lift up our schools and motivate our students. We are Tenafly!!! We have an incredible community and a top-ranked, highly reputable school district. Let’s make a commitment to keep the positive momentum going because the children are watching!
Very truly yours,
Shauna C. DeMarco
Superintendent of Schools
P.S. - As always I welcome your comments and thoughts on the matter. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and feel free to follow me on Twitter @TenaflySupt.