An incident last week reminded Somervell County residents that no community can be considered exempt from the threat of potential violence.
A Glen Rose High School student was arrested on March 7 and faces a terroristic threat charge. According to a Somervell County Sheriff’s Office news release, Jesse Wayne Brawner, age 17, was taken into custody and charged with the Class B misdemeanor. His bond was set at $1,500.
On Tuesday, March 6, a Glen Rose ISD school administrator contacted GRISD school resource officer Shane Tipton and gave him information "regarding a disturbing and threatening video that was posted on social media by a student."
Superintendent Wayne Rotan told the Glen Rose Reporter that the threat, in a video format made off campus and posted on social media, was aimed at a specific individual, but did not involve any school, staff members or students in general.
The GRISD and the Sheriff's Office "worked together on this reported threat," the news release states, adding, "Officials would like to reassure that the threat was not against the students, staff members or the school."
Sheriff Alan West indicated that there is no other information on the incident to be released at this time.
Glen Rose High School Principal Kelly Shackelford posted a Facebook video (www.facebook.com/glen.schools/) on March 8 reminding students and their parents of an already-existing phone app that provides a way to anonymously report information of potential concern that officials should know about such as bullying, as well as threats that potentially could involve any GRISD campus.
“We’re just trying to bring awareness to it, to give people the opportunity to report anything of concern,” Rotan told the Glen Rose Reporter, noting that there is also a place on the GRISD website to report any incidents — anonymously because, he said, “Sometimes people see, hear something concerning, and they don’t want their name in it.”
Rotan said that such incidents reported to the GRISD will be investigated. This, of course, comes at a time when incidents of school and workplace violence are becoming more and more common.
The phone app, which can be downloaded for free to your smart phone, has actually been available for about four years.
“With all of the heightened concerns, we were just wanting to remind everybody that the app is there, and the spot on the website,” Rotan said. “Our No. 1 goal and priority is to make our students and staff in the Glen Rose ISD as safe as possible. If we can eliminate any potential dangerous situation, we’re certainly willing to do that.”
Rotan noted that the provision to report such incidents was added in the wake of the Texas Legislature passing Senate Bill 179, known as “David’s Law.” That law was passed with the intention of preventing retaliation because it does provide for information to be provided anonymously, Rotan said.
David’s Law was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 12, 2017, and it took effect on Sept. 1. It came about after a 16-year-old San Antonio Alamo Heights High School student named David Molak took his own life in January 2016 as a result of cyberbullying.
David’s Law expanded the definition of bullying that could be addressed by schools.
The official GRISD policy guidelines against bullying states that bullying “means a single significant act or pattern of acts by one or more students directed at another student that exploits an imbalance of power and involves engaging in written or verbal expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that satisfies the applicability requirements … and that:
a. Has the effect or will have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or of damage to the student’s property;
b. Is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student;
c. Materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of a classroom or school; or
d. Infringes on the rights of the victim of at school;” and includes cyberbullying.
According to David’s Legacy Foundation’s website, David’s Law gave Texas public schools the authority to address cyberbullying that occurs off-campus, and also requires parental notification.
“Schools (are) required to notify a bullying victim’s parents of a bullying incident within three business days after the incident is reported and must notify the parents of an aggressor within a reasonable amount of time,” the website states, adding, “School procedures for reporting bullying incidents must include anonymous reporting for students. Schools will be able to expel students who engage in very serious bullying.”
The website of the nonprofit David’s Legacy Foundation also states that David’s Law makes it easier “to obtain an injunction (similar to a protective order) from a Texas court to prevent continual cyberbullying against a student. Victims will be able to have the court issue an injunction against not only the cyberbully, but also against the cyberbully’s parents, requiring those parents to take action to stop their child from cyberbullying. The Texas Supreme Court’s office will make easy-to-use forms available to the general public to allow parents to obtain an injunction against ongoing cyberbullying of their children without the need for hiring a lawyer.”
David’s Law also modernized Texas criminal laws “to better include the current ways cyberbullies attack victims through smart phones and social media,” the website notes. “Cyber-harassment against a child that includes suicide baiting or the violation of an injunction against cyberbullying will be a much more serious criminal offense than before, up to Class A misdemeanor.”
PARENTS: MONITOR POSTS
Rotan said he wrote a letter to parents of GRISD students on Friday, urging them to talk to their children to see if there are any problems that need to be addressed.
“Parents need to monitor that,” Rotan said, referring to their children’s social media interactions, which can include many other outlets including Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram — even more often than Facebook for those of school age.
Complicating things for responsible parents who are attempting to monitor their children’s online messaging is the fact that sometimes multiple accounts are set up. One can be set up for the parents to see, and other accounts can be kept hidden from them.
Rotan said that the majority of the bullying incidents that occur in Glen Rose schools involve name-calling. But officials nationwide are taking precautions to try to make sure that bullying incidents at any level — whether in person or on social media — don’t escalate into potential violence.
“We don’t ever want any student to feel unsafe, or have apprehension about going to school, or in between passing periods or lunch,” Rotan said of problems that can commonly involve pushing and shoving as well as verbal attacks. “The biggest part of bullying reports are coming from social media.”
He later added, “Often, it’s done off of school grounds.”
Rotan noted that students — or adults, for that matter — who post messages on social media sometimes don’t think about the potential long-term impact in the real world.
Rotan said that social media posts can actually end up “prohibiting them from getting into college, getting a scholarship, or employment.”
“Scholarship committees and school recruiters are all checking social media accounts to see what kind of person they’re getting,” Rotan said.
Rotan’s advice to students is to not only avoid posting “anything you don’t want to read on the front page of the news,” but also not to post anything you wouldn’t want your parents or grandparents to read.