A 16-year-old Louisville high school student killed herself moments after posting a video described as a suicide note on YouTube. The three-minute video, sent school officials into a state of panic on Tuesday, as they frantically tried to safeguard the students from the subsequent onslaught of social media hysteria.
The video, posted by Maddie Yates at approximately 6 p.m. Monday, was eventually removed from YouTube the next day at 4:30 p.m., however, by that time, it had been viewed in upwards of 10,000 times on the site.
Concerned officials at Jefferson County Public Schools felt their best course of action was to completely cease all district network access to Twitter and YouTube on Tuesday, after it had come to their attention, that students district wide were circulating the disturbing video. Their goal was to buy time in order to properly address the Male High School students first, before reactivating the network system.
“The safety and security of our students is our No. 1 priority. Jefferson County Public Schools is doing everything possible to support students who are grieving at this time,” district spokeswoman Mandy Simpson said in a statement. “We temporarily removed access to Twitter and YouTube this morning. This was an effort to ensure that students who are emotionally impacted could get the help they needed as we worked with officials to address the situation through the most appropriate and efficient channels.”
Unfortunately, the plan proved to be ineffective, because students were able to readily access the internet sites utilizing their cellular devices, and the video viewings continued to soar throughout the course of the day.
The founding director of the University Council for Educational Administration’s Advance Study of Technology, Scott McLeod, said that the district’s decision to temporarily terminate access to the social media sites was not unexpected.
“It was likely a way for them to try to let things cool off and minimize the distractions until they could address it appropriately,” McLeod said.
McLeod admits he questions the intended results of the media access shut down, considering the vast majority of students have phones and are allowed to use them during school hours.
“Unless you take away their cellphones, they will find another way to access the information,” he said.
Some parents felt the school missed out on a valuable opportunity to speak frankly with the students regarding the serious subject of suicide, like Jon Hile, whose daughter attends Dupont Manual High School in the Louisville district.
“You can’t deny the fact in this age of social media that those kids saw that video,” he said. “I think it could have been handled better. Trying to ignore what happened isn’t going to help anyone.”
Last year, Jefferson County relinquished the ban previously set in place, that disallowed students from using their cell phones, iPods and computers while on the school premises or while attending any school related activities.
Some schools were opposed to the ban saying that smartphones could be utilized as valid educational tools. Therefore, it was decided by the school board, who voted in September, to allow students to use their cell phones during school hours.
On Tuesday, Male High School brought in 20 grief counselors to provide support to the students in need.
Schools Cease Social Media Access After Student Suicide