THERE WAS A PLAN. And then there was real life.
An expected walkout of students yesterday at North Penn High School was thwarted by principal Burt Hynes, who pointed out to students that such an action would violate school rules.
A group of students had planned the walkout to support the female students involved in a nude-photo scandal that has rocked the Lansdale, Montgomery County, school. North Penn officials confirmed Friday that they were investigating allegations that some North Penn students had shared nude or suggestive photos and videos on the file-sharing site Dropbox.
Instead of the walkout, Hynes offered to meet with students in the auditorium during lunch periods to discuss "how we can better educate our middle-school and [high-school] student bodies about online safety, what steps we have already taken and what we can do while allowing the local law-enforcement agencies to sort out the facts," the principal said in a morning video statement.
At the end of the school day, many students said the open discussion and Hynes' availability impressed them.
"They spent the whole day working with people, figuring out new ideas to see what would help out . . . I loved that," said senior Julia Genardi, 18, who attended two sessions. Some ideas that were bounced around, she said, included how to spread awareness about online safety and how to prevent bullying.
In addition to Hynes, North Penn School District Superintendent Curtis Dietrich, along with a school counselor and others, spoke with students, according to students and a district statement.
Junior Jessica Phillips, 17, said her fellow female students need guidance.
"Somebody needs to just help girls all feel that they shouldn't have to do that. They shouldn't have to send things like that," said Phillips, who didn't attend the lunch-period discussion.
Senior Dan Sardaro also opted not to take part in the sessions, but said he was curious enough to walk past the auditorium.
"I was surprised at how many people came out [and] seeing how many girls and guys were there," said Sardaro, 18.
"I thought it was a really good way to kind of ease some tensions. I thought Mr. Hynes, our principal, did a really good job at that," he added.
By the end of the day, the district had posted on its website the ideas that had been discussed.
District administrators "received concrete suggestions for next steps. Ideas include assemblies, speakers, student clubs, panel discussions, student mentoring and more, all on the topic of smart decision making, appropriate use of technology, and respect," according to the district update.
Hynes told students in his morning statement to "understand that investigations such as these take time to be completed and there will be no instant answers to questions we may have."
He also asked for students' help. "I continue to urge anyone with knowledge that would contribute to the investigation of such activity to directly contact his or her local police department," Hynes said.
The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, along with the county's detective bureau and various local municipalities, is investigating. District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman declined to discuss details of the case, but gave some advice for youngsters.
Ferman, who has made education efforts around cyberbullying a top priority as D.A., said:
"In this day and age, nothing is private."