Groves High School administration has reprimanded and counseled students involved with inappropriate social media messages, one of which included a derogatory and demeaning term, and another a racially insensitive photograph, Birmingham School District officials confirmed.
Groves Principal Embekka Thomson, Ed.D., sent an email to parents on Friday, December 15, alerting them of the issue, and that it had been brought to the attention of Groves administration.
“These social media posts are unacceptable and a full investigation is underway. At this point in our investigation, we have enough information to administer strenuous consequences consistent with the student code of conduct. However, the investigation is ongoing. Although these social media posts occurred outside of the school setting, when there is potential for disruption to the school environment, we feel compelled to conduct a school investigation,” Thompson wrote parents.
“Since these posts happened outside of the school day on social media, please consider this issue another opportunity to talk with your children about their digital footprint. In addition to these social media posts not being able to be taken back, inappropriate posts are often damaging to their school reputation, and have far reaching consequences such as college admissions and employment. What is considered humorous to some, may be perceived as hurtful or threatening to others,” Thompson continued.
Marcia Wilkinson, Birmingham district spokesperson, said that once the investigation was underway, the students’ stories kept changing. “It was kids using the internet to downgrade other kids,” she said of the three students involved. “It was not actually bullying, and there was nothing sexual, but it could be construed as inappropriate. The students were counseled and it is still be looked at.”
This is the second incident at Groves in December. On December 1, Thompson reached out to parents regarding an incident in one of the locker rooms that alleged student misconduct within one of the locker rooms in what has been described as a combination of physical abuse and bullying. Wilkinson said the district is still looking into the incident, which involved a couple of students, so she could not comment specifically on it. However, she said the school’s athletic teams share the locker room with the physical education students.
“Students at times may think because they meant no harm, an event is not problematic. They may assume that because others are laughing and having fun, the behaviors are acceptable,” Thompson wrote to parents. “However, it is important that we communicate clearly with our children that disrespectful, demeaning, or non-consensual behaviors of any kind are not acceptable. Students will be held responsible for their conduct, not on their subjective intent. When allegations of misconduct are brought to our attention, the district will promptly investigate and provide support to the individuals that were targeted, and provide support to the individuals who were affected, while following the disciplinary policy and procedures regarding other students who were found to have been involved.”
Wilkinson emphasized that it is imperative for both parents and students to let teachers, staff and administration know if and when any incidents occur so they can immediately take appropriate action.
“As these things come up, people have to let the administration know,” she said. “The only way we can take action is if parents and students keep an open line of communications with the schools.”