School 'sexting' ring revives technology debate

Courtesy: MGN Online
Courtesy: MGN Online(KNOE)
Published: Dec. 19, 2016 at 5:33 AM CST
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Recent shocking events at a Rapid City middle school came as a surprise to parents, even more of a surprise to them was how the school handled the issue, now the debate about cell phones and specifically content being viewed on them, is creating an interesting and controversial conversation.

Technology running rampant.

That's what parents of students at Southwest Middle School are saying after parents say a group of nearly 40 students got caught in a sexting ring.

Parents upset with the school system for the way students were disciplined but Assistant Superintendent Bradley Berens says situations like this one put staff in a bind.

"It's a very tough spot its natural for parents to think the school has a role and they don't always decide the role starts or stops here," Berens said.

Katy Urban, Public Information Manager with the Rapid City Schools says the school system is not able to discuss the details of any happenings of specific cases due to federal law

"Because of the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA), we essentially are unable to talk about any specifics when it comes to the discipline of our students," Urban said.

Parents saying Principal Robin Gillespie talked to students about the incident without contacting parents, and Berens said in most cases the school system trusts administrators judgement. Even if it goes against the norm.

"To say there is a hard and fast line that is crossed and that point is where the parents are involved so it's a judgement call.... In most cases we would expect that if the principal is talking to a student about a conflict that there is parent contact," Berens said.

Now a debate front and center, not about personal property but about the content being viewed. You can take a cell phone, but how do you control an idea? The schools say they need help.

"We need more than just the school involved we need the parent involved any role the parent to help the students understand and discern good judgement at the appropriate age goes a long way," Berens said.

Personal property is something that is respected in the rapid city area school guidelines as long as it does not become a distraction to learning, but the debate about content control looks to be just beginning in Rapid City Schools.