The so-called Blizzard of 2015 came and left with less than a foot and a half of snow, much to the dismay of many. This past Tuesday, January 27th, students of Bedford High School took out their outrage over the Superintendent Mr. Chip McGee’s no-snow day decision to the internet. The majority of the tweets were good natured, but a few were, as Mr. McGee put it, “less than kind.”
Many of the tweets were critical of the idea of a two-hour delay instead of a second closing because students felt as if they would be in danger if they tried to commute on Wednesday morning. Mr. McGee explained his decision making process, “I consider many variables, including the state of the roads and school campuses, the number of power outages, and the upcoming weather predictions. I talk with the Bedford Police, the Bedford Department of Public Works, our bus company, and our maintenance director. I also talk with a weather service and superintendents in other districts.” Although students find it is easy to look out at their snow-blanketed driveways and wonder how anyone could expect to leave the next day, of everyone in town, Mr. McGee has the most informed idea of how the conditions will be.
However, many kids felt they should express their concern for departing in the snow via Twitter with tweets like, "lol who wants to place bets on how many accidents will happen on the way to school tomorrow #thankschip" and "so instead of closing schools we are going to have car accidents, kids not showing up and angry students...#bedford". Based on the conditions Tuesday night and the decision of other schools in the area to close, BHS goers simply could not contemplate the idea of making it in the next day, and took to the offensive, throwing the question of their safety into the mix. Fortunately, there were no disasters as many had predicted and though students may not have been in the highest of spirits, they managed to get to school safely.
On Twitter, students casually referred to Superintendent McGee as Chip or, as one student ventured, "Potato Chip." As Mr. Sheil, BHS’s technology integration teacher explained, "People do not have filters and say things that they would not say to a person to their face. I am sure you all have seen a poster, or one similar, talking about being a good digital citizen. In this poster it states that if you would not say it to your grandmother, then you should not post it at all. It is the responsibility of all users who use technology to use it appropriately at all times. When students and teachers use technology together, they must use it in a professional manner." Additionally, Mr. McGee's added, "First and foremost, students have the right to speak freely so long as it does not disrupt the educational process in school. That said, I would expect students to refer to me as Mr. McGee in face-to-face interactions and would expect the same in social media."
Some students whose tweets were recognized by the staff faced consequences from the school Wednesday morning. There was, of course, backlash yet again on Twitter, suggesting that punishment for what students write on their private online accounts violates the idea of first amendments rights to freedom of speech. On this point Mr. Sheil wrote, "students have a right to say what they would like to say. However, with that being said, people have to recognize that there are consequences that they might have to face as a result of what is said." Many students had their own opinions, ranging from outrage to total agreement with the verdict and everything in between. John Morin, who was asked by students on Twitter to use his persuasion as Youtube's well-know ZexyZek to sway the superintendent's decision commented, "I don't think that what they said was right but I also don't think that they should be taken out of school for comments they made on social media.” Junior Jenna Gosselin added, "It does somewhat violate freedom of speech, students should use their social media wisely and should express their words but not to the extent of what happened."
Even though the incident was widely recognized as a negative representation of Bedford students, many kids made an effort to quell the comments shortly after they started to get out of hand. "I know we all wanted a snow day but there is a fine line and some of you have crossed it. Be respectful," one student wrote. Another remarked, "lol i love bhs but some people need to learn the difference between funny and rude." Teachers and students alike commented in appreciation and the majority of students whose tweets were controversial by using inappropriate language, name-calling, and obscenities, deleted them before the next morning. Despite the bad press surrounding the events on Tuesday, it was a great representation of the Bedford School District’s ability to self reflect than anything else.
For those students who tweeted comments about how all the hype may influence Mr. McGee one way or another, Mr. McGee will not be taking what students said into consideration during his snow day decision making process in the future. Mr. McGee has since changed his Twitter account and is already moving past the situation altogether.
As an opinionated student with a Twitter account, the controversy this past week served as a reminder to think before typing. And as one very optimistic student reminded us on Tuesday, "just remember we'll be out one day earlier than everyone else this summer." Well said.