Friday, May 4, 2012

Stop the Anonymous Web Lurking

By Michelle Sturiale, LASD parent

As some of you may know, I am a Los Altos School District (LASD) parent that has been extremely involved in the Bullis Charter School (BCS) issue where there is a real live threat due to charter law that our district might have to close a high performing public school and hand that school over to BCS free and clear.  I have taken a very public stand, both as a parent and as a PTA president that I do not want this to happen. However, there is a very strange phenomenon occurring in our peaceful, quaint town that I would like to bring to light in this blog post.

On Wednesday night I spent the entire evening away from my family (as did many other LASD and BCS parents) to attend a five hour Santa Clara County Office of Education Board meeting. (For those of you that do not know, this board is the chartering agency to BCS and until recently, this board was completely unaware of the angst that is occurring in Los Altos due to BCS potentially forcing a school closure.)  Many people were brave enough to speak in front of an audience; it takes a lot of courage to speak publicly on this touchy subject especially at large county board meeting, and I would like to personally commend everyone that did speak and that has spoken in the past. Additionally, I would like to hope that as this process continues, more people will feel comfortable getting up to speak.

However, I am appalled by the behavior of online anonymous commenters on many web sites such as Facebook, and our local papers – the Town Crier and the Patch. These posters choose to use their anonymity to make negative comments on public remarks made at the county meetings and other public meetings.  As I was literally speaking to the county board on Wednesday, anonymous online posters from BCS were bashing me and accusing me of things I have not done.  I think it is time that the most active and vocal anonymous posters on these forums take off their anonymous masks and face the public with their legal names. As we all are aware, the Internet makes it very easy for us to emotional disconnect from our audience, making it much easier to attack someone online.  This is nothing short of internet bullying.

Unfortunately, I am now under the impression that all BCS families feel exactly the way the few vocal BSC parents do and to me, silence equals acceptance.  All of us must call out the bad behavior on both sides of the issue and it starts with stopping the anonymous posts.  Many on the county board have said that both sides of this touchy issue need to stand down and focus on the healing.  I tend to agree with them on that point; although we may not agree with each other, we need to be respectful.  

I have always shied away from confrontation (that’s how I was raised in Minnesota). This polarizing  issue is so important to me that I chose to make public statements about my beliefs even though I knew I was opening myself up to harsh criticism. I have (or had) friends at BCS, and I have always tried to have a respectful conversation about these issues while holding our local and county leaders responsible for the problem.  I have never pointed fingers at parents or children of BCS, and have never asked for the charter to be revoked or for BCS to be shut down.  I am simply using democracy to stand up for what I believe is in -- a high performing LASD school to not be closed and to accommodate the unchecked, ungoverned needs of BCS.