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Plum/Oakmont

Plum presents parents with anti-bullying tips at forum

Michael DiVittorio
| Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, 9:48 p.m.

Parents should monitor their children's social media accounts, talk about what not to post and even craft a contract about how they behave on such sites and applications.

Those were among several tips given by social media experts Andrew Gordon and Eric Sloss of Socialize Right at an anti-bullying forum last week at Plum School District's Oblock Junior High School.

“There is absolutely no way that we, in today's society, can avoid social media,” Sloss told the audience of about 40 people, including administrators, school board members and parents.

“What we want to do is empower you to be mentors and leaders. I also want you to have some perspective in this in terms of what your students might be getting into and who can be available to see this content.”

There are more than 500 social media sites in existence with 100,000 tweets and 227,000 Facebook log-ins per minute, according to the presentation.

College admissions are reviewing social media uses and companies are looking at social media feeds before hiring someone.

The state Legislature outlawed bullying through electronic communications in 2015.

Those charged may be subject to a diversionary program, a maximum $2,500 fine or a year in jail.

Socialize Right is a program through Sloss' company, Shift Collaborative, designed to help students and others manage social media properly.

The anti-bullying program was also presented at student programs during the week.

“It's helpful for us to talk to them about positive ways they can use (social media),” Gordon said.

Parent Debbie Ball echoed the speakers' thoughts about parental involvement. She said one of her daughters who has since graduated was cyber bullied.

“If it wasn't for the administration at that time it would have been worse,” Ball said.

“We had the cyber unit from the state police pull some of the paperwork that we had. It was ugly. Parents have to monitor what their kids are doing.”

The presentation came a little more than three weeks after a video of an attack on ninth-grade student Marissa Salerno in the high school cafeteria was posted on social media.

Authorities confirmed that another student assaulted the girl from behind on Jan. 18, striking her multiple times in the head while another student recorded it.

The girl suffered a few lacerations and is now taking cyber classes because the Salernos feel the high school is not a safe environment; and they want the attacker to be expelled.

The attacker was suspended for several days and Plum police have charged her with harassment and disorderly conduct.

Salerno's parents attended the presentation. Chad Salerno said Socialize Right was very informative, but felt the event was not quite the format the family was expecting.

“That was more of a presentation and not a forum,” said Chad Salerno. “

The information they gave, I think, was awesome for the community. They're doing their job.”

Assistant Superintendent Gail Yamnitzky said the bully prevention forum was planned before the cafeteria incident.

“These forums are a result of the work of the Safe and Supportive Schools Committee developed last year,” she said in an email after the program.

“Over the course of the spring, summer and early fall, the forum topics were selected and they are: opioid/heroin epidemic, bully prevention, and suicide prevention. Once the topics were selected, district personnel began researching these topics for resources and experts in the field.”

The opioid discussion took place in late November with the assistance of the FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, University of Pittsburgh's School of Pharmacology, Plum police and the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office.

“We are very proud to be able to offer these parent forums on some very timely and concerning issues,” said Yamnitzky.

At the start of the presentation, district officials delivered an overview of some of the programs already in place to combat bullying.

They include schoolwide positive behavior programs that teach and encourage positive relationships and behaviors, such as Be A Star on Center Stage at Center Elementary, and Special Forces and Heroic Helpers at Pivik Elementary.

The high school has a student assistance program, mediation sessions and a positive behavior team that will implement bullying prevention into its practices.

“Our goal was to provide parents with an overview of some of the pro-active things we do as a district to minimize bullying and cyber bullying,” Yamnitzky said.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367 or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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