Garfield High School in central Seattle has experienced a chilling escalation in violence over the last few weeks.
The peak of this violent tide occurred a few weeks ago when two students were shot a block from the school during a Friday night halloween celebration and one of them died. His name was Quincy Coleman. Police believe the shootings were related to gang activity.
How does this relate to social/digital media? Two things.
First, a student used footage of the news coverage of the shooting and pictures of Mr. Coleman to create a tribute video and posted it on YouTube to honor the student. Check it out:
I thought this was an interesting use of social media to facilitate mourning among the community of Quincy’s friends and family. It is especially interesting to read comments made about the video, some of which praise Coleman as a “legend.”
But the plot thickens, and this is where another issue in our new digital age comes to the forefront.
The school had to block the video on school networks because many students were watching the video and some of the content could possibly be inflammatory and result in gang-related retaliation.
As a Garfield staff member, I am very interested in how school districts are navigating the murky waters between allowing students to utilize new communication technologies that have the potential to broaden their educational experience while fulfilling their privacy, security and legal responsibilities to the students. The issue of cyberbullying, for example, is just one instance of this new dilemma for school districts, one that has received a lot of press.
While I have not studied school districts scientifically in this respect, I do have some first hand experience with their operations. As a reporter in Columbus, Ohio, I covered a medium sized suburban school district and, as I have said, I currently work at a high school.
Not surprisingly, school districts are erring on the side of safety. But the question then is: If digital literacy is vital to Millenials’ ability to get good jobs and function in an increasingly networked society, how is their education being served with 20th century technology?
I understand why school districts are erring on the side of safety; it’s because, first, they really do care about students and, second, they don’t want to be sued. The legal precedence on these issues is shallow and they don’t know how they might be liable in some situations.
But the example of the RIP Quincy video brings these questions to the forefront and it will be up to us as a a society to answer these questions intelligently and directly. Avoiding digital technologies could be disastrous for students’ education and ignoring safety concerns has its obvious pitfalls.