Twitter civility: Montgomery school effort begins

Montgomery County’s plans for a dialogue on civility in the Twitterverse are expected to get underway Thursday evening, as the school system’s newly formed Cybercivility Task Force gathers for the first time.

School officials selected the 43-member group from 220 applicants, and it includes five students; 13 parents; eight community members; 10 school system staff; and others associated with nonprofit groups, law enforcement and the county council of PTAs.

The effort dates to December, when Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr was zinged with offensive and crude tweets as he and other school officials weighed whether to close schools amid snow and icy weather.

Hoping to spur a conversation across Maryland’s largest school system, Starr wrote a letter to parents.

“We need to talk about ‘cybercivility’: how we can help our children grow into responsible and caring adults who interact with one another in a civil, respectful way,” Starr wrote in his letter, which officials tweeted, e-mailed to newsletter subscribers and posted online.

Starr said in an interview then that he had received other offensive tweets before, but the December batch hit a new low that he thought could be used as “a teachable moment.”

Several months later, the public is being invited to attend the first meeting of the Cybercivility Task Force, at 7 p.m. at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.

The group’s mission is to help the school system develop strategies for discussion of respectful communication in the cyber world.

School officials also announced a cybercivility forum April 24 that will include Andrea Weckerle, author of “Civility in the Digital Age“ and president of CiviliNation, which focuses on helping people interact responsibly in cyberspace. That event will also be held at Richard Montgomery High School.

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
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