Austin school officials notify parents about content on Web page

Published 11:14 am Friday, May 18, 2012

Austin Public Schools parents had a teachable moment about the power of social media Wednesday.

District officials sent an email to parents of sixth- through 12th-grade students calling attention to a social media site started by two students to offer support for “students who are struggling with life issues,” according to the email.

Though Austin Schools human services director Mary Burroughs said there was nothing wrong with the site, which is still online and growing in numbers, she said parents need to be aware when students come into contact with social media sites like this, which didn’t include any mental health professionals to help with issues.

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“Two students created the site with good intentions to help support other students,” Burroughs said.

The site ballooned to more than 1,300 users in less than three days, with students from Austin and elsewhere, and even some adults, sharing personal details about their lives, including topics like attempted suicide, physical and sexual abuse, and more.

“There was some pretty serious topics being discussed on this website,” Burroughs said.

District officials notified the Department of Human Services about the site per state statute, but school officials also thought it was important to let parents know what happened.

“We had enough parents that were concerned and the site was so big and actually visited by so many students in the district,” Burroughs said. “We felt parents were the ones who really needed to take an active role and know what their child was visiting.”