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Guest commentary / Education, privacy and bullies

No perfect answer to complex problems

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By Mike Habic
I have to admit that I had to read the story about a school vice principal coercing a student to log on to her Facebook account several times.
The reason being is that I wanted to ensure I was "hearing" the whole story at least from Herald reporter Sharon Salyer, and I didn't want to reply with a knee jerk reaction targeted at the vice principal, the student, or the student's parents. (Wednesday, "Facebook search criticized.") Now after several hours of thinking about it, I concede that I have no prefect answer and the issue at hand is going to be something that schools, parents, and students are going to be dealing with for many years.
I will be honest in saying that the first thing that came to mind was that it was a problem student and parents trying to bad-mouth and complain about school staff. Really. It's a sad commentary even to myself that I automatically sided with the vice principal. It most likely was a case of me interpreting the article how I "wanted" it to. It's very easy and convenient to point the finger at the student merely since these days kids/teens are involved in incidents that didn't occur back when I was that age.
So I put myself in the parents shoes for a little bit. I thought about what I would do if my daughter was the student. I would not be handling it as well as these parents are. Most likely I'd be behind bars awaiting my arraignment on assault charges.
So being that hindsight is always 20/20, I have just a few comments on the matter that hopefully will be read by other parents, and work with the schools to handle such a problem:
Do I think the vice principal had good intentions? Absolutely! He obviously was trying to obtain information for the safety of a student. However, I do not condone/agree with the manner in which he resorted to. It is disgraceful that someone who is obviously well educated, being that he is a school vice principal, would conduct himself in such a manner. Force a student to do anything that is personal to them and has zero criminal attributes? Without the parents present? Without even notifying the parents? That is really something. That "something" is not good!
So a fine student, an honor student at that, has to be subjected to such treatment because she's a good student? How about the next time something like this happens, and there will be a next time, the principal or vice principal calls the students parents and explains, before doing anything else, that they would like to request the student to assist in a matter that is for the safety of another student? What would have been wrong with this vice principal simply asking the student to help? Maybe it's just me, but when I was that age, had the senior staff of the school acknowledged my standings and asked for me to "help" them with something would have made me feel pretty good.
It breaks down this way:
1) Cyber-bullying is such an awful thing and the vice principal should be praised for his intervention.
2) The vice principal should also be suspended and reprimanded for treating any student like that.
3) To the parents of the student, thank you for showing that you are very involved and protective of your daughter.
4) To the student, I think it's terrible how you were treated. I do hope that through all of this, you realize that you're clearly a remarkable student/person. For someone with the position of vice principal, regardless of his disgraceful and enraging methods, to come to you to "help" speaks volumes about you. You should be very proud of yourself.
After all of this, the problem still remains about their privacy. Personally, I feel that the cyber-bullying needs to be addressed and rectified, and far out weighs the "privacy" question.
That question has an easy answer. Students should never again be subjected to what happened which under different circumstances could potentially place them "in harms way."
Maybe next time, the school should just call the local police. Call me crazy, but I think that's exactly what they are for.

Mike Habic of Marysville is a parent volunteer at his daughter's school.

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