MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Officials with Rutherford County Schools have been alerted to a potentially dangerous cyberbullying trend that involves youths posting photos of female students and then inviting others to make degrading comments.
District officials received information over the weekend from students and parents stating that unknown persons have created anonymous and unauthorized Instagram accounts using school names for the sole purpose of criticizing the appearance of other students.
The school district does not operate any Instagram accounts.
In addition, access to Instagram is blocked on the district’s networks and so the district does not believe school computers are being used. However, the district has policies in place to protect students from cyberbullying if such actions cause a disturbance at school.
“We take these reports seriously because we want our students to feel secure at school and to be protected from these types of harmful actions,” Director of Schools Don Odom said. “We have notified our principals and the School Resource Officer division to be on alert so they can investigate and intervene immediately.”
In addition, the district encourages parents to contact their school’s principal if their child has been directly affected, to monitor their children’s social media activity and to discuss with their children how damaging cyberbullying can be to other students.
“We can’t overcome these types of issues without assistance from parents. We need parents to monitor their children’s online activity and to put a stop to any incidents of cyberbullying,” Odom said. “We’ve all seen examples from around the country of students who have been victims of severe cyberbullying. Students don’t always realize how harmful comments on social media can be.”
District policy concerning student discrimination, bullying and intimidation prohibits any student from bullying, intimidating or creating a hostile educational environment for another student.
Students can be expelled for a calendar year if they communicate a threat on social media that causes a disturbance at school, according to the district’s zero tolerance policy. Furthermore, inappropriate photos shared through electronic means may also result in criminal charges depending on the content of the photo, such as nudity involving minors.