High school seminar quickly went south after students asked to submit questions anonymously

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Students began posting lewd and inappropriate messages on a screen during the seminar, directly from their phones. (KTRK)

"Miley Cyrus for President"
"Hitler was a good guy"
"Vaping saved my life"

These are part of a short list of messages we can actually put on air.

Just imagine reading them, along with dozens of racially and sexually offensive messages, from theater-sized screens at an assembly of 14-years-olds.

"It was a bunch of kids trying to get attention," said senior Rachel Robertson. "It's just like the crazier stuff they can put up there, the better."

As a freshman assembly at Memorial High two weeks ago, students were invited to send in questions and comments, which would be anonymously projected on the big screen. It was supposed to be a fun way for students, faculty, and administrators to get to know each other. Now the principal is apologizing, saying, in part:

"This was a teachable moment for all of us. We assumed the best of our students, and when some of them let us down, we responded. As I told freshman parents in the email to them that day, raising up this next generation of young people, especially in the age of social media, is a daunting task, but together, we can make a difference."

"They had an opportunity to type up a bunch of ridiculous things that were going to go up on the big screen and they took it," said one parent. "They are in the ninth grade, what else were they going to do?"

"Heartbreaking, I guess. Cruel. I just didn't think that would be something that most of the kids would say," said another parent.

No students have been disciplined, but the freshman class has been required to attend meetings to discuss what happened.

Below is the entire letter sent to parents:

    Dear Parents,

    In advance of tonight's Open House, we want to inform you that MHS has been contacted by several news outlets regarding our August 28, 2015, Freshman Assembly. There may be media near the school this evening.

    To give you context about the assembly, here are the facts. In an effort to gain feedback from freshman students about their first week of school, we used online "Today's Meet" technology. Students were invited to type questions on their phones, which were then anonymously projected in a scrolling manner on the screen. As I shared with freshman parents via email that afternoon, we were disappointed by many of the comments. Many were racial, sexual, and just plain offensive.

    In response to the inappropriate comments by some during the Freshman Assembly, we took the following immediate actions:
    Emailed all faculty and freshman parents before the end of the August 28 school day and asked parents and to have a conversation with their students about the assembly
    Spoke directly to freshmen parents attending the MHS Booster Club-sponsored breakfast on September 2nd
    Developed follow up advisory lessons and met with all advisory teachers on Thursday morning, Sept. 3, before advisory period. All freshman students had a follow up advisory lesson in their advisory class on that day
    Included the Freshman Assembly as an agenda item for the Campus Improvement Team on Sept. 3
    This was a teachable moment for all of us. We assumed the best of our students, and when some of them let us down, we responded. As I told freshman parents in the email to them that day, raising up this next generation of young people, especially in the age of social media, is a daunting task, but together, we can make a difference.

    I look forward to seeing you all at Open House tonight at 6:30.

    Lisa Weir
    Principal
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