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Twitter polls target Howard Co. students

Posted at 5:31 PM, May 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-20 21:59:01-04

HOWARD CO., Ind. -- Derogatory questions about students from all five Howard County Schools are being posted from a Twitter account called Howard County Polls.

The account has nearly 400,000 followers. 

The poll questions are so offensive we can't post their content here.

"I was appalled. Any parent who sees these polls should be appalled. It's disgusting. It's discriminatory. It's slander," said Jennifer Bown, parent of high school student.

Superintendents and principals from all five Howard County school districts said on Friday that they were made aware of the Twitter account polls and issued a joint statement condemning the harassment, saying that it appears to be originating from non-high school locations.

"Regardless of where it takes place, if we consider it discriminatory or harassment of another student, we'll take action against any student that would post something, submit something to be posted, and it's our understanding that this is being done by a third party. If we find out who that is, we'll pursue any action we can take legally to get that stopped," said Supt. Ryan Snoddy, Northwestern School Corporation.

Twitter says that it investigates and reviews abusive behavior on its site, and accounts can be deleted.

Howard County Schools say that despite reporting the Howard County Polls account to the social media site, Twitter hasn't deleted the account.

FULL STATEMENT FROM HOWARD CO. HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPALS

Howard County school officials recently have been made aware of inappropriate and offensive polling sites anonymously posted on Twitter.  Through social media, participants oftentimes are asked offensive questions about Howard County students.

Howard County school officials consider this type of activity to be irresponsible and against the principles that are espoused daily to our students.  We pride ourselves on being high schools that embrace differences and protect the rights of all students, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and/or other classifications. Each Howard County school corporation has individual policies in place to protect students and staff from discrimination and/or harassment. 

Howard County school officials have notified local law enforcement concerning this issue.  This social media activity appears to be originating from non-school locations and is NOT school sponsored or approved.  As a precautionary measure, each district’s technology staff regularly monitors its filter program to restrict this type of activity.

Multiple reports have been submitted to Twitter regarding “abusive and harmful” accounts as well as those that are “engaging in targeted harassment”.  An automatic response from Twitter states “Thanks for letting us know.  If we find that this account is violating the Twitter rules, we will take action on it.”  Local school officials have received no further notification from Twitter that any further action has been taken.

All Howard County students are reminded that those who participate in activities that harass and/or bully other students or staff, whether inside or outside of school, may face disciplinary action in accordance with each school corporation’s policies.  Howard County high school principals encourage anyone with knowledge related to this activity to notify their local school office.

Support is available through high school counselors for students who may be negatively impacted by these unfortunate and irresponsible acts.

To any student or other person orchestrating this type of polling and to those participating, Howard County high school principals have the following message: STOP!  You are hurting other people and your actions are inappropriate.  Further, you may be subject to disciplinary consequences.”