Superintendent's Message, December 10, 2014

  • Dr. Cohn
    Dr. Gary Cohn, Superintendent
    Dear Everett Public Schools community members,

    On the evening of Dec. 9, Jackson High School administrators learned of disturbing comments circulating on social media. That information generated a response by the Mill Creek Police Department, Jackson High School administrators and the district.

    Understandably staff, parents and community have questions about what happened, what we did about it, and what we’ve learned.

    What happened
    The Dec. 9 social media comments, posted under the anonymous Twitter account @JHSexposed, involved over 60 Tweets. Many of the anonymous Tweets were vulgar, sexually graphic, and degrading about specific Jackson High School students. Many other students reacted to this anonymous tweeter.

    At the end of the series of defaming Tweets, the anonymous tweeter posted three final Tweets.

    1. “Now y’all know how it feels to be bullied. I will ruin you like this school ruined me.”

    2. “I’m ending it all tonight. So don’t worry. I got my karma.”

    3. “Bye.”

    There were no further posts from @JHSexposed after that.

    Shortly after these posts ended, a different anonymous Instagram author interpreted and embellished what @JHSexposed said.

    (Note: The full Instagram quote here includes grammatical errors and censoring of one profane word.) “People who go to Jackson listen the f*** up and read this caption. Don’t go to school I repeat. Do not go to school tomorroe there is a kid threatenin to shoot himself or the school please stay at home. Please amd thanks you.”

    This Instagram post was forwarded widely and quickly among students throughout the evening and early morning. Some students ONLY received the alarming Instagram message. Others got the Instagram message in the context of the extended, anonymous Tweets.

    What we did
    Jackson High School administrators called Mill Creek Police and responded to questions from parents aware of the social media conversation.

    Mill Creek Police swept the campus last night and were present in force this morning. Mill Creek Police worked with Twitter to shut down the @JHSexposed account this morning. The police department investigation also identified the author of the Instagram message.

    Jackson High School and other neighborhood schools sent a Blackboard Connect call Wednesday morning -- as soon as staff recognized the extent of the rumors created by social media.

    What we have learned
    It would have been ideal if the Blackboard Connect message could have been sent earlier.

    Some families were able to make a decision about school earlier because they had seen the social media conversations. Others were not aware of those conversations and were faced with the concerns and decisions late in the morning.

    Neither the Mill Creek Police department nor the high school staff determined there was a direct or specific physical threat to the school or individuals. We clearly understand that the last three Twitter posts, combined with the associated Instagram “warning,” and the extensive circulation of opinions raised questions and alarm, especially in light of the October Marysville tragedy.

    What we are doing and how you can help
    We are reconsidering when and how we notify parents when social media conversations reach a level of concern among our families and we become aware of that concern. We are continuing to work with Mill Creek Police to identify the author of @JHSexposed. We are grateful for the department’s persistence at insisting Twitter shut down the offensive account. Please remind your students how important it is to be smart and careful with social media – and to alert an adult whenever social media conversations raise safety concerns. Please monitor student social media accounts so that you know what students are reading and writing to one another. Working together, we can help students safely navigate a world of cyberspace that opens amazing doors to learning and connections.

    Warm wishes,

    Gary Cohn