The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 7, 2013

Loyola hosting social media awareness discussion

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — The timing couldn’t have been more perfect at Loyola High School recently when, for a very short time, a “Love Connections” Twitter account created by students popped up.

The account — modeled after several other anonymous high school- and community-oriented Twitter and Facebook feeds — published anonymous comments about students, some of which were inappropriate.

 Loyola interim Principal Shelley Schultz was proud of how quickly the school community responded and shut it down. The account, @KatoLoyolaLC, was up just 90 minutes, and immediately after a parent called and made Schultz aware, it was taken care of.

“That’s just a prime example of how we are, for a parent to say, ‘I can’t sit on this,’ and call,” said Schultz, who is also president of Loyola Catholic Schools.

The timing just happened to coincide with a couple of social media awareness events the school was planning, Schultz said. And so rather than sweep the short-lived @KatoLoyolaLC under the rug, she thought it was a great opportunity to include it in the ongoing discussion of social media responsibility and continue with the school’s mission of transparency.

Schulz said it’s important for educators to listen to and be in tune with what’s going on in their schools, and then get ahead of potential problems.

“It’s really, really important that we be proactive,” she said. “We don’t want to have our reputation being tainted by something that can be controlled.”

One of the events is a panel discussion on social media, including a question-and-answer session, with: police officer Tom Rother; school counselors Jessica Kirschner and Ann Klasen; activities director John Landkamer; technology specialists; and Loyola student representatives from Project for Teens, a mentoring group that promotes healthy decision-making.

Schultz stressed that the event is open to the public, including parents of students from any school of any age. The event will include tips on how parents can become more aware of their children’s Internet usage. So often, Schultz said, kids are hidden behind computer screens, and it’s important to be knowledgeable about that usage.

“Education is power,” she said. “I want us to be prepared.”

Also, next week juniors and seniors in religion classes, led by Rev. Robert Schneider, will go into ninth- and 10th-grade classrooms to deliver messages of character development. The upperclassmen have been working on visual presentations and skits on topics such as teen pregnancy, “losing touch with the bigger picture,” drugs and alcohol, criminal acts, dropping out of school and social media.

The purpose is to promote healthy behaviors early so that good choices are made and stuck with, and that includes a heavy emphasis on the range of social media sites available to students these days, Schultz said.

“We’ve all been in education long enough to know kids will be kids,” she said. “But there are consequences for your actions.”

The panel discussion is 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, in the Loyola High School cafeteria on the Good Counsel campus.