Education

Community Facebook group source of cyberbullying, Santa Fe ISD superintendent says

Santa Fe district officials are now encouraging students or parents to reach out to the district directly with concerns or contact one of their tip lines.

Santa Fe High School.

In an effort to curb what some are calling cyberbullying, some Santa Fe ISD officials are encouraging people to disassociate with an independently-led community Facebook group.

“Santa Fe ISD students and staff have been subjected to numerous unsubstantiated claims, defamation, online bullying, and character attacks over the past week on the TOSF platform,” Superintendent Kevin Bott said in a statement this week.

The subject of the public call-out is a string of anonymous claims of sexual assault within the school district posted to the “Talk of Santa Fe” Facebook group of just over 18,000 members. Those posts have garnered attention in the group, initiating district officials to quickly respond to claims they said were unsubstantiated.

Bott said any reports of sexual assault or sexual harassment related to those Facebook posts have been investigated by the school district and found to be false.

“Posting anonymously on social media chat pages is not the avenue to resolve legitimate concerns,” Bott said. “This only creates confusion and conflict in our community. Our district does not condone this type of social media activity.”

The dispute led Eric Davenport, a school board member to encourage group members to follow in his steps by leaving the community Facebook group.

“If enough people do the exact same reason, I bet the logarithms ‘may’ trigger someone at FB to look further into the page’s unhealthy posts,” he said in a Jan. 17 Facebook post.

Davenport further pledged to donate $500 to the Santa Fe Education Foundation if 500 people left the “Talk of Santa Fe” group.

Administrators of the Facebook page told Houston Public Media the school district has partnered with the Facebook group in the past to host livestream videos.

“We are a place where actual people with no real power or affiliations can communicate concerns to their neighbors without fear of being exposed or made to live in fear of retaliation,” group administrators said in a statement.

Santa Fe district officials are now encouraging students or parents to reach out to the district directly with concerns or contact one of their tip lines.

“Due to all of the recent activity by the TOSF admin, it has become clear to us that TOSF is not a legitimate platform to conduct school business or have healthy communication,” Bott said.

A district of about 4,300 students, Santa Fe Independent School District is located about 35 miles southeast of Houston.