More online safety awareness is coming to students, from students, in the Nechako Lakes school district this spring.
From May 30 to June 2, School District No.91’s Student Voice would be hosting a series of presentations from Darren Laur, social media safety expert and former staff sergeant of the Victoria Police Department, in the secondary schools of Fraser Lake, Fort St. James, and Burns Lake.
The sessions followed a series of high school surveys conducted by the student governance body during the previous year, and cyber bullying emerged as a top concern for students.
Laur will also be working with the student group, comprised of representatives from each high school across the district, to prepare a presentation targeted for Grade 4 to 7 students that will take place in the fall, explained Burns Lake representative Courtland Mack.
“Elementary school students don’t listen to adults; they rather listen to role models such as high school students, so that’s why we wanted to train to become presenters,” Mack said. Though Student Voice representatives come from secondary grades, the goal is for the group to represent elementary schools as well, he added.
Student Voice is also looking to change district-wide policies around bullying — the current policy does not include cyber bullying — and cell phone use within schools, Mack said.
“The social media policy right now is more of an adult perspective…we want to also have the student perspective,” he said. “We recognized that cell phones are useful in the education environment but we want to ensure that cell phones are being used properly.”
Ideas include allowing respectful usage of social media channel SnapChat, through which users share temporarily-stored videos and pictures, Mack explained.
“Legally, you’re not allowed to take a photo of someone else [in school] but obviously it happens a lot with Snapchat,” he said. “So we’re trying to figure out how to create a policy that works to allow people to use [it] but doesn’t infringe on other people’s rights.”
The school district board will be allocating $10,000 to Student Voice for the internet safety sessions.
“We definitely feel like all our students need to know about their online profiles can show things about them that they don’t necessarily know,” said Steve Davis, the board’s vice-chair.
“An emerging threat in school is bullying going from being in the hallways to being online, where it’s much harder to stop,” Davis said. “So being able to educate our students about threats and different ways that they can protect themselves is very important.”
He explained that the sessions are a long-term investment for online safety.
“It’s a proactive measure, rather than reacting after something bad has happened,” Davis said. “Students can avoid conflicts, then you don’t end up having all of the drama and the bad responses students have when they are bullied, when they are stalked, or whatever else that can happen online.”