The Influence of Social Media

Superintendents and school leaders have the added responsibility of navigating the unknown as the pressures mount to balance the best safety decisions with the best education decisions. Social media allowed the world to experience the COVID-19 pandemic and provided an in-depth look at life in schools as leaders tried to make sense of the coronavirus's impact on students, teachers, parents, federal and state funding, and so much more. However, the large gush of perspectives including distortions made it difficult to wade through the rationales for decision-making.

Regardless of system context—urban, rural, suburban—the noise surrounding COVID-19 has been deafening to listen to through the amplified political grandstanding, finger-pointing, and identifying and separating educational leaders by their views and positions. Added to the noise was a hotly contested presidential election, something that is always preceded by media slanting and mudslinging with personal and professional nastiness. In a day of full-throttle media outlets without any controls, the storylines become even more contested, jaded, and ugly.

The positions taken by key leaders across the country reflect deep divides in positions with little overlapping agreements. To illustrate these points, the following are offered:

President Trump: After being questioned about the death toll of COVID-19, PresidentTrump responded, "It is what it is" (Cole & Subramaniam, 2020, para 1).

The School Superintendents Association contends that the reopening of schools should be a local or regional decision informed by applicable health, safety, and disinfecting recommendations articulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local health agencies (AASA, 2020, para. 3).

Education Secretary DeVos: "School leaders across the country need to be making plans" to have students in the classroom, DeVos said. "There will be exceptions to the rule, but the rule should be kids go back to school this fall" (Smith, 2020a, para. 8).

Press Secretary McEnany: "When he says open, he means open in full, kids being able to attend each and every day in their school. The science should not stand in the way of this" (Smith, 2020b, para. 3).

American Federation ofTeachers: AFT President Randi Weingarten said, "Our blueprint serves as a stark contrast to the conflicting guidance, bluster and lies of the Trump administration (AFT, n.d., para. 12).

Florida Governor DeSantis: "But I'm confident if you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools," said DeSantis. "I want our kids to be able to minimize this education gap that I think has developed" (Sullivan, 2020, para. 4).

National Education Association: "[Ajnxious educators have a message for administrators and lawmakers: We want to teach our students, but we don't want to die doing it" (Flannery, 2020, para. 1).

Education leaders were challenged to fulfill their responsibilities in the face of the rants in social media and the injection of inaccurate data against the backdrop of the polarized positions made by state and federal leaders.

 
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