Wednesday, 26 October 2016 13:56

Choose words wisely

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Words. Those may be the most powerful five letters of this entire editorial.

What people say and how they say it has become important in today’s world. It can be so easy to offend by using the wrong words. People can become scared or anxious or they can act out based upon hearing words strung together to form a sentence. The person saying those words isn’t doing it to offend, or incite a reaction. He or she is sharing information or expressing him or herself.
There are people who use words as weapons. They choose them carefully — although not always wisely — and spit them out of their mouths with venom, attacking the person they are directed toward.
Social media has made it more easy to hide behind our words. People can create fake profiles and spew forth incorrect information or hurtful words at others, never having to see the consequences of what those “word weapons” have done. We are reminded to not let words hurt us. To be as a duck to water, and let them shake off our outer layer, never penetrating. These words are easier said than done. That’s why it’s refreshing to see organizations and those people in circles of influence becoming more careful about the words they are choosing and using.
A few weeks ago the two school divisions in Medicine Hat and the rural Prairie Rose School Division held a joint initiative to launch a campaign to help others choose their words more wisely.
Earlier this year, an incident on social media where some school students in the school divisions were receiving threatening messages, caused school administrators to act quickly. Decisions were made, one of which to place schools in what’s known as “hold and secure” situations. This is where, while the exterior doors to the school are locked because there may be danger outside school walls, the inside of the school functions as normal. It’s different from what’s known as a “lock down” situation, which denotes an immediate threat of violence to students inside the school building. The school does not function normally in this situation and students are tucked away in groups in safe locations until the threat has been secured.
The difference between the two terms —“lock down” and “hold and secure” — is chaos when the wrong one is used, especially on social media. That was the case earlier this year when people were saying schools were in lock down when in fact they were not.
Parents who understand the difference would be frightened and upset to hear of a lock down in a school where they have children. It is cruel for them to be led to believe that is the case — and the worry that comes with that — when really the wrong word is being passed around social media like a bad game of telephone.
That division administrators recognized this as a problem, and have now acted upon it, is commendable. Each of the three divisions — Medicine Hat Catholic, Medicine Hat Public and PRSD — are hoping to educate the media, parents, students and their communities at large about the words they are using when it comes to their emergency protocols. They are working together to make this goal a reality so everyone can benefit from better communication.
The public can help. The next time you see certain words being used on social media, especially in emergency situations, be careful about sharing them. When it comes to education and our schools, make sure to understand the difference between and the meanings of the terms “lock down, hold and secure, shelter in place and evacuation.” When other people are using these terms incorrectly, be brave enough to correct them and help educate others.
Most importantly, let’s all try harder not to be a person using words as weapons or a way to incite negativity, hatred or shame.
Author Jodi Picoult wrote, “Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.”
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor