Social Media Hysteria and a Texas School District’s Ban on Walking with Students

German statue honoring the student-teacher relationship

On Friday, April 8, 2016, a wave of hysteria swept social media. Reports from sites with questionable journalism credentials, like, led the ill-informed masses in their indignant outrage directed at the principal of Bear Branch Elementary School in Magnolia, Texas.

Bear Branch Elementary has a system of dismissal by which students who are bus riders or driven to school are dismissed first. This is to prevent young walkers from being struck by a bus or car during the busiest part of day. Once the riders are dismissed, the walkers are dismissed and can meet their awaiting companions or parents. The vast majority of parents with children enrolled at Bear Creek Elementary approve of this schedule. However, with the masses on social media just waiting to be mad about something, all it took was one parent who thought the rules didn’t apply to them to create chaos and reign down vitriol on the principal and district superintendent.

This whole thing started because one parent became verbally and physically abusive to a teacher and staff members in front of hundreds of students waiting to be dismissed. It was so bad that the police had to remove the parent, who was subsequently charged. Even so, psuedo-news outlets online ran with the lie that the parent had been prevented from walking their child home and was arrested because of the principal. Never happened.  This whole incident occurred because one parent failed to communicate properly with a teacher. It happens all the time, and the consequences can be long-lasting and far-reaching.  Parents must talk with their child’s teacher. It’s vital to their advancement, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

  • Your child’s teacher is your partner, not your superior. Many parents, especially young, working parents, still view teachers as someone with absolute authority over them. Maybe as a young student, this view was correct, but as an adult, it’s toxic. Even if you don’t have the same degree of education as your child’s teacher, you are still their equal in the effort to educate your child. Approach the teacher with the same respect you expect to receive as an adult.
  • Express yourself in a reasoned manner—even when you’re upset. Instead of storming into a classroom to give your child’s teacher “what for,” approach them calmly and state your concerns. Try something like, “Hello Mrs. Jones. Thank you for seeing me. I’m concerned that there may be a personality conflict between you and Sally. I’m hoping we can discuss what is happening and find a way to make her more comfortable in your class.” The teacher will appreciate your directness without all the outrage.
  • If you have a concern about a policy, contact the principal and/or superintendent. Teachers do not have the final say on scheduling or much else in public schools. Yelling and screaming at a teacher, especially in front of children, isn’t going to solve anything. It just makes you look foolish and scares the children and staff.
  • If you see something on social media that outrages you, check out the facts before re-posting or sharing. Does anyone really believe that a school official would have a parent arrested in front of their child for merely trying to walk that child to or from school? Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true.
  • If you screw up and lose your cool, apologize. Sure it’s hard to admit that you lost your temper and said or did things you shouldn’t have, but it’s a sign of your good character when you can acknowledge your failing. As your child’s first and most important role model, you build their character by setting an example, even when it’s hard and humbling.

The Magnolia Independent School District responded as quickly as they could when they learned of the outright lie being spread online. Even so, the damage caused by one parent’s ignorant rant on social media caused a couple of families to pull their children out of the district—four to be exact.  Hopefully these parents will realize that their knee-jerk reaction was unfounded and return their children to Bear Branch Elementary.

PLAN contacted the principal and superintendent who promptly responded to our inquiry and provided us with a letter to the parents of the district. Read it here>>>>>>>>>>

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