Tonganoxie USD 464 addresses cyberbullying at meeting
Tonganoxie USD 464 took the proper steps, per its policies involving cyberbullying, in a case in which one student shared a photo of another, according to Superintendent Lyn Rantz.
The superintendent also apologized for comments she made to a Kansas City, Mo., television station about the situation, and said that the comments did not reflect her entire email to the station about the incident.
The topic was addressed during Monday’s regular school board meeting.
The discussion stemmed from an incident Sept. 8 at Tonganoxie High School. A THS freshman girl snapped a camera phone photo of another freshman girl in just her underwear while in the locker room. The student capturing the photo then shared the photo with others via social media, a move that sparked the other student’s mother to contact KCTV5 about the incident.
The mother said in the television report that the bullying has been ongoing, dating back to previous years and that she felt the district hadn’t done enough to address the situation.
Rantz and THS principal Mark Farrar said the district was taking the cyberbullying situation seriously and that the student who snapped the photo was disciplined soon after the incident. The administrators declined to say what the punishment involved, citing privacy laws.
Rantz announced at Monday’s school board meeting that she was working to form a committee of high school and middle school teachers, parents and students in an effort to review district policies regarding cyberbullying.
Asked during an interview earlier Monday about whether there’s a way to regulate usage of cell phones in schools, Farrar and Rantz said it was possible, but that can bring with it more complications, such as the district being liable in case something were to happen to the phone.
The administrators said they were working with law enforcement officials, as they do in any case that could be considered criminal, in the matter.
Rantz also shared her full statement to KCTV5 when asked about the incident: “Our student handbooks are available for public viewing. Our main concern is student safety and well being. The school administration has investigated and taken appropriate actions in this situation. It is involving two minors, therefore confidentiality for all involved is of the utmost importance. Please refrain from reporting on a situation that is dealing with minors and a situation which school has handled following board policy, with care and with our students’ best interests in mind.”
In a second email, Rantz wrote that all handbooks are online at the district’s site and that “Unfortunately young people make poor decisions. We hope that as a news outlet you would not broadcast something that is unfortunate regarding minors and something where a school investigation and consequences were appropriately applied. Sad news day if this is newsworthy. Kids need to come to school to be cared for and learn but know when poor choices are made, it won’t be on the evening news.”
The final two sentences of Rantz’s statement were shared in the television report.
Rantz said she was unaware that the parent had reached out to the TV station and that both the mother and daughter had done interviews with the station when contacted.
Rantz said she was trying to protect students’ identities.
At the meeting, two people spoke with concerns about bullying and that the district needed to take steps to make the school environment safer.
Another patron asked Rantz why family members would have felt the situation were at a point they needed to contact the television station.
Rantz said she couldn’t speak to that question, but said the district contacted law enforcement right away.
She said the district would continue to work with the family and help them.
“Obviously we must have done something for them to feel that way,” Rantz said.
Farrar said earlier Monday that he’s dealt with several cyberbullying cases during the course of his career and that it’s an issue that the district wants to combat through the committee being formed to evaluate policy.
“Our focus at this point is to help the victim transition back into school so that she feels comfortable and can continue learning and be successful,” he said.
Meeting site change
The board voted to move its future meetings at TES at the same time, 6 p.m. the second Monday of each month.