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Facebook rants not preferred solution to problems at Kamloops schools

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September 24, 2015 - 2:30 PM

KAMLOOPS – School administrators in Kamloops would rather angry parents pick up the phone before ranting on Facebook, spreading misinformation or aggravating an issue.

The reaction comes after a parent at Arthur Hatton Elementary school posted a lengthy tirade on the Facebook group Kamloops Rant and Rave saying the breakfast program at schools in the area had been cancelled. 

She asked why parents weren’t informed, questioned the principal’s management skills and lamented all the rumbling tummies.

"Bet your ass I am calling the school board of trustees and superintendent about this," she posted. “It breaks my heart these children went hungry, this is Canada." 

Arthur Hatton Principal Anthony Rempel says the school does in fact still have a breakfast program but it was not operational during the first week of school.

About the only fact the parent got right, was that the breakfast program was lacking a full-time cook, Rempel says, which means instead of getting pancakes and eggs, the kids get cereal and yogurt. The program is still fully operational.

“Parents with questions are welcome to phone the school first,” Rempel says.

While school officials agree social media can be a great tool, it can also be the fastest way to spread misinformation and aggravate a problem, or even create a new one.

The Arthur Hatton parent’s Facebook rant is hardly unique, according to superintendent of schools Karl de Bruijn who says parents posting to social media before they know all the facts is “unequivocally a problem” within the school district.

There are also examples of cyberbullying were parents have harassed each other, students and teachers on social media.

“We’ve had incidents where parents have complained about other students,” de Bruijn says, adding some comments can be quite malicious.

Stuart Wood principal Blair Lloyd of recalls an incident between parents at an unnamed school which escalated on Facebook.

An illegally parked parent picking up their child from school was yelled at by a different parent stuck behind their double-parked car. The offended parent took their tirade to Facebook making disparaging remarks about the illegally parked parent.

School board chair Denise Harper recalls an event where complete strangers harassed a Kamloops teacher online.

Harper would divulge only a few details but explained the school board investigated a matter concerning a teacher. Individuals without knowledge of the matter, or the teacher, took to the internet.

“This staff member was demonized on blogs over a matter that was being dealt with. This person was being called horrible names by people across the country,” Harper says.

“Etiquette of face-to-face communication is not the same online,” she says adding she believes some comments could be considered slanderous and charges could be laid. 

While the school district doesn’t have a social media policy for parents, de Bruijn says “it is worthy of looking at.”

In the meantime, individual schools have found their own solutions.

Principal Walt Kirschner at Valleyview Secondary admits his school hasn’t had many issues with parents and Facebook, but thinks it might be because his school’s parent committee does not have a Facebook page.

“I'm not a big fan of it myself. It’s hard to create the cultures and necessary filters,” Kirschner says.

Principal Barbara Hamblett at Beattie School of the Arts says her school proactively created rules of engagement for their parent advisory committee’s Facebook page. 

The guidelines describe what the page is for, whom it is for and explains acceptable behaviour or etiquette on the site.

“Personal issues between members or between members and the Parent Advisory Committee are not to be discussed on this site," Hamblett says. "They are to be resolved off-line.”

“Any bullying or personal attacks will not be tolerated and any members who participate in such actions will be removed and blocked from the group," she says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dana Reynolds at dreynolds@infonews.ca or call 250-819-6089. To contact an editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2015

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