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Wikipedia, today’s modern day Webster Dictionary, defines cyberbulling as “the misuse of electronic information and mass media, such as e-mail, SMS, weblogs, cellphones and defamatory websites, to harass or attack a person or a group. It can cause emotional damage. Cyberbullying can include sending threats and unwanted sexual messages.” While normally associated with middle school and high school age teenagers, cyberbulling has moved into the world of adults as well. Parents of student athletes in the area are increasingly turning to social media to inappropriately address coaches and administrators and it is becoming an increasing problem not only nationally but locally as well.

A report last year in the Minneapolis Star Tribune stated that parental grumbling about high school coaches is getting louder and more disruptive fueled by the growing use of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Parents are using these tools to spread displeasure about school team’s performance and coaches decisions. John Erickson the executive director of the Minnesota state coaches association said at the time, “In our estimation, it’s created a hostile working environment.”

Unfortunately we are currently seeing the same type of hostile, inappropriate behavior from parents in PISD, particularly in the Plano West community. Several parents seem to think it is OK to conduct a pattern of harassment, criticism and general belittlement of some of the administrators and coaches. Surely it’s not acceptable from the students why would it be acceptable from the parents? There is no denying it has been a tough year for the Plano West football team. District 6-6A is currently one of, if not the toughest district in the State. The Wolves currently have a 0-4 record going into their game this week with the number one ranked team in the state the Allen Eagles. Although the prospects are bleak for a successful record this season, the coaches and the players are working as hard as they can and are dedicated to their team and school. What doesn’t help matters is parents taking to social media to criticize administration, the coaching staff and the kids. Despite the challenging season does that make it right for it to be open season on the Plano West coach or any HS coach for that matter on the internet from parents? We think not. It sets a bad example for the kids and it’s just not right.

How can we educate our student athletes on the proper use of social media when their parents are not conducting themselves appropriately? Also it’s pretty mean and wrong to kick someone while they’re down no matter what the circumstances. Most of us who were raised correctly were taught that when someone is down and out you reach out and try to help them up, not kick them down again which is what is happening here. While understanding as a high school football coach in Texas you are a public figure subject to criticism and scrutiny at some point there is a line, and that line is being crossed by several parents in particular at Plano West as shown by the example of attached screen shots.

There have been many cases of kids bullying kids on the internet, but parents bullying coaches (particularly high school coaches) is a fairly new but growing phenomenon. We have all types of stipulations, rules and contracts for the student-athletes on internet behavior but seems like there is none for parents and this is a growing issue. More and more coaches are leaving their positions partly due to the vitriol directed at them on the internet.

“It’s a significant issue, and it needs to be discussed more,” said Kevin DeShazo, founder of Fieldhouse Media, an Oklahoma City firm that trains colleges and athletes on social media. DeShazo has engaged high school coaches on the topic and speaks at high schools in Oklahoma and at national workshops for activities directors. “A parent going on social media to complain makes it worse for everyone, especially the kids,” said DeShazo in the story in the Minneapolis Tribune. 

DeShazo said social media concerns no longer are just about young athletes sending inappropriate messages. Engaging parents is critical. “What’s unique at the high school level is how personal it gets,” DeShazo said. “These parents are picking up their kids after practice each day and in the stands every game. We’re in the era where every kid deserves to start. But there must be a culture of respect even if parents disagree with coaches’ decisions.”

So in conclusion @tedstrauss2001 and @castenchris, try to be part of the solution not the problem. Continual disrespect and destructive criticism of our administrators, coaches and student athletes. It isn’t helpful to anyone, is inappropriate behavior for an adult and doesn’t make anyone feel good.

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