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Cyber-Bullying

Robert Harrison FRIT7330 July 14, 2011

Policy 1Bristol Middle School Cyberbullying.Bristol middle school student handbook. Retrieved from http://www.bristol.k12.ct.us/page.cfm?p=5730

The Bristol Middle School Student Handbook provides students with a broad overview of cyber-bullying, examples of cyber-bullying, a clear procedure for reporting cyber-bullying, and the resulting disciplinary actions of cyber-bullying. The policy begins by providing students with a simple definition of cyber-bullying as harassment over the Internet. The policy goes on to state that individuals are responsible for the material that they post online or through other technological means. To ensure that students fully understand the various behaviors that constitute cyber-bullying, the school provides a list of inappropriate behaviors which contains harassing, teasing, intimidating, threatening, or terrorizing another person by sending or posting inappropriate and hurtful e-mail messages, instant messages, text messages, digital pictures or images, or website postings, including blogs. Anyone who believes they are the victim of cyber-bullying are advised to provide a copy of the offending material to a school administrator or will investigate the incident, even if such events occurred off-campus. According to the policy, off-campus incidents will be assessed based on their disruption of the learning environment. Finally, the policy lists the disciplinary actions that may result from cyber-bulling which includes loss of computer privileges, detention, suspension, or expulsion, as well as possible reporting to local law enforcement if a hate crime has been committed. Overall the Bristol Middle School policy seems to be a very well thought out policy with several strengths. First, the policy places the responsibility of the appropriateness/inappropriateness of material posted electronically squarely on the individual.

Many students often seem to feel disconnected from the material they post online, especially when it is often done outside of the school environment. Students may feel that posting inappropriate material online outside of school is acceptable. However, this policy states clearly that such actions are each individual students responsibility and that regardless of where the incident occurs it is unacceptable. A second strength of this policy is the broad list of actions that constitute cyber-bullying. This list is fairly expansive and provides a clear understanding of which actions are inappropriate. Providing victims with information on the specific staff member (any school administrator) to report incidents to is also a strength of the policy. By stating that reports should be turned in directly to an administrator, victims are able to quickly identify who to report the incident to and the incident can be addressed immediately, possibly before offending material has time to be removed or spread further. If victims were advised to report such offences to a teacher who would then report the incident to an administrator, the process may not be addressed as quickly. A final strength of the Bristol Middle School policy is the inclusion of a list of disciplinary actions that may result from cyber-bullying. By posting the punishments that violators will receive, perpetrators may be deterred by the severity of the consequences. While this policy is well thought out, there are some weaknesses. First, the policy establishes a simple definition of cyber-bullying as harassment over the Internet. While I believe the majority of cyber-bullying does occur primarily through Internet resources, there are other actions that are often considered cyber-bullying that do not occur through the Internet. The school policy even states some such actions that are not internet-based, including text messages and digital images (which may also be sent by phone). Students who only read the first paragraph of the policy may mistakenly believe that since text messages and digital images may

be sent by phone, they are not considered cyber-bullying. An additional weakness relates to the policy regarding cyber-bullying that occurs on a non-school computer. The policy states that cyber-bullying originated from a non-school computer, but brought to the attention of school officials, any disciplinary action shall be based upon whether the conduct is determined to be severely disruptive of the educational process so that it markedly interrupts or severely impedes the day-to-day operations of a school. While I realize that schools do face some challenges enforcing their policies when students are off-campus, I believe this policy provides a possible loophole to allow cyber-bullying to occur. Based on the policy as it is written, any violations that are not severely disruptive of the learning environment may not be punished. Cyberbullying is wrong regardless of how disruptive it is of the learning environment. The policy also states that cyber-bullying which occurs from a non-school computer must also violate another district policy in order for disciplinary action to result. Therefore, before a cyber-bullying perpetrator can be punished for their actions from a non-school computer, they must have violated two policies. This leads one to believe that the act of cyber-bullying alone does not warrant punishment to be given.

Policy 2Bishop Blanchet High School Cyberbullying.Bishop Blanchet high school cyberbullying policy. Retrieved from http://www.blanchet.k12.wa.us/page.php?id=410

The Bishop Blanchet High School cyber-bullying policy is not as expansive as the Bristol Middle School policy, but it does provide students and parents with a variety of resources that relate to the issue of cyber-bullying. The policy begins by providing a well written definition for cyber-bullying as the intentional and repeated mistreatment of others through the use of technology, such as computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. Next the policy briefly outlines locations that cyber-bullying frequently occurs at such as social networking sites, chat rooms, and text messaging among others. Then the schools official policy on cyberbullying is stated, merely noting that harassment of any kind will not be tolerated. Students are encouraged to report any harassment that occurs through written message or image, including those that are electronically transmitted, a verbal, or physical act. In addition to stating the schools brief policy on cyber-bullying, the Washington state laws relating to cyberbullying are also provided. Finally, the policy provides parents and students with information on the schools actions to prevent and inform students about cyber-bullying, statistics on the frequency of cyber-bullying, negative results of the behavior, and media sources related to the topic. The definition of cyber-bullying as defined by the school policy is a clear strength. Unlike the Bristol Middle School definition which stated cyber-bullying was harassment over the Internet, this policy clearly notes that cyber-bullying can occur through a variety of electronic sources. An additional strength is that the policy identifies locations in which cyber-

bullying may frequently occur. Once students are aware of these locations as possible cyberbullying hotspots, they will be better prepared to avoid such media or to identify it on the listed locations. The inclusion of related state laws also is a strength. When students realize that their actions are in violation of school rules, as well as state laws, they may be deterred from taking part in harassing others. I also believe that noting in the school policy how the school plans to make students aware of cyber-bullying is a good idea. This shows both students and parents that the school takes the issue seriously and is taking action to address the problem. Finally, the inclusion of statistics on the frequency of cyber-bullying and media links to information on the topicare worthwhile additions to the policy. Through these statistics and websites, the seriousness of cyber-bulling is apparent. The New York Times article is especially effective in providing an inside look at what cyber-bullying can do emotionally. Hopefully when students view this information, they will realize that it is a problem that must be corrected. Bishop Blanchet High Schools definition of cyber-bullying is well written, but the policy does not provide further information or examples of specific actions that would represent cyberbullying. The policy does attempt to clarify what harassment is by noting that it means any intentionally written message or image, including those that are electronically transmitted, a verbal, or physical act, including but not limited to one shown to be motivated by any characteristic of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or mental or physical disability, or other distinguishing characteristics. I believe this explanation to be poorly written and confusing to the reader, which constitutes another weakness of this policy. Bishop Blanchets policy also does not provide students with information as to whom cyber-bullying incidents should be reported to. Students may be hesitant to come forwarded with such incidents anyway, and if the school does not make the reporting process as simple as

possible, then students may be even more unlikely to report incidents. The policy should identify a respected and trust worthy staff member(s) that students can report to in the case of an incident. The school may address these weaknesses through the cyber-bullying initiatives (Community Period activity, Freshman Retreat, Diversity Club posters, etc.) that are currently in place, but correcting these issues within the schools policy would provide students with greater clarity and insight on cyber-bullying.

Policy 3-Cyber-bullying.Warwick school district cyber-bullying policy. Retrieved from http://www.warwick.k12.pa.us/orgmodule.php?deptid=107&schoolid=0007&mid=248

The Warwick School District policy on cyber-bullying is the best organized and most expansive of the policies that I examined. The policy begins by providing a brief summary of the key points of the districts policy in a user-friendly format. Next, a list of definitions is provided that features inappropriate behaviors and clarification on how a victim would know if cyber-bullying has occurred. The policy states that if students feel physically, emotionally, or mentally harmed, in reasonable fear of physical, emotional, or mental harm, fear of damage to or loss of personal property or if a student feels their educational opportunities have been interfered with they should report the incident as cyber-bullying. The proceeding section is the Delegation of Responsibility which identifies the roles played by staff members, students, and administrators in the cyber-bullying process. Students are then informed of the established procedure for handling a cyber-bullying complaint. The policy then provides a step-by-step outline of how a complaint should be pursued from parent/student complaint to a staff member, investigation into the event, and finally reporting to the principal. The last section of the Warwick School District policy identifies the disciplinary actions that may result if cyberbullying occurs. As previously stated, the Warwick School District policy on cyber-bullying is exemplary and features many strengths. First, the brief overview/outline on cyber-bullying that is provided at the beginning of the section is very helpful. It provides information on the inappropriate nature of cyber-bullying, how to report an incident, the subsequent actions that will occur, and

the schools plan to educate students on the issue. This brief overview contains most relevant information without the reader having to read the entire section on the topic. A second strength of this policy is the definition and examples provided on cyber-bullying. These provide the reader with a clear understanding of what cyber-bullying is and the behaviors that may constitute a reportable incident. The policys delegation of responsibility is also a strength. Cyber-bullying is a problem that must be addressed by school staff members, students, and administrators if it is to be corrected. Warwicks policy identifies what responsibilities lay with all parties so that everyone is aware of what their role is. The complaint procedure established by the Warwick policy is by far the best of the three I examined. Students/Parents are given information on how to report an incident and the steps that will follow. By allowing victims to report the offence to any staff member, students will not be able to say that they could not find someone to report to. Also, by outlining the steps of the reporting procedure, incidents should be resolved more efficiently as all parties are aware of how the process will proceed. The final strength of the policy is the identification of punishments for offences. Violations of the policy will result in appropriate disciplinary action, consistent with the student discipline code, which may include suspension, expulsion, or notification to the appropriate authorities. As it is written, the policy leaves room for the school to address incidents with the appropriate punishment while also protecting the rights of students. Since disciplinary actions must be based on the student discipline code for the severity of the offence, the school is not able to hand out punishments to students that are drastically different. The completeness of the Warwick District policy makes locating weaknesses difficult. The primary weakness of the policy is that it does not specify a plan of action for cyber-bullying that may occur on non-school district technology or off-campus. By not formally stating that

cyber-bullying is not to be tolerated in or out of school, the policy may lead to student misconceptions. Some students may mistakenly believe that their actions are immune from punishment when they occur outside of the school environment. The district should consider making this revision so students are aware of the consequences for their actions, regardless of where they occur.

Madison County High School Cyber-Bullying Policy MCHS Cyber-Bullying StatementMCHS believes that bullying/harassment of any kind is inappropriate and will not be tolerated. Given the connectivity of students in todays society through the Internet and mobile devices, the frequency of cyber-bullying incidents has increased. Incidents of cyber-bullying should be reported immediately to any MCHS staff members who will take the appropriate actions as established by the student handbook. Cyber-Bullying DefinitionCyber-bullying is defined as the use of the Internet, cell phones, or other electronic devices to harass, threaten, intimidate, or harm others. Cyber-Bullying ExamplesExamples of cyber-bullying include but are not limited to the following: harassment, intimidation, or threats that occur through social network websites, blogs, wikis, instant messaging, chat rooms, email, text messaging, or digital pictures/images. Cyber-Bullying Prevention Responsibilities--Combatting cyber-bulling is the responsibility of everyone within the MCHS community. Students have a responsibility to not participate in cyber-bullying and to report any incidents of cyber-bullying to an adult/school staff member. Parents/Guardians have a responsibility to speak with their child regarding appropriate technology use and to encourage their son/daughter to respect others. Teachers are responsible for creating learning environments in which all students feel safe and respected. Teachers will also provide students with yearly cyber-bullying instruction through Advisement. And teachers will report any suspected instances of cyber-bullying to the appropriate administrator. Administrators have a responsibility to establish a warm, friendly school climate. Administrators will provide teachers and students with information on cyber-bullying and how to prevent cyber-bullying throughout the school year. School administrators will also investigate incidents and ensure appropriate punishments are enforced. Filing a Cyber-Bullying ComplaintCyber-bullying complaints shall be addressed through the following steps: 1. The victim, parent/guardian, or anyone with knowledge of an incident will notify any staff member at MCHS of the incident in written or oral form. 2. The staff member will report the incident to the appropriate assistant principal within one (1) school day. 3. The assistant principal shall have five (5) school days in which to investigate the incident appropriately. At the completion of the investigation or five school days, the assistant principal will provide all relevant information to the school principal.

4. The principal will evaluate the incident report as composed by the assistant principal, speak with all parties involved, and carry out punishment when appropriate. Cyber-Bullying ConsequencesStudents found to have committed an act(s) of cyberbullying are subject to the following punishments as deemed appropriate by school administrators and based on the student handbook code of conduct: loss of technology use at school, in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, expulsion, or alternative school placement. If warranted, a police report may also be made with the Madison County Sheriffs Department or other appropriate law enforcement agency. NOTEStudents should be aware that any incidents of cyber-bullying that occur on campus or off-campus are subject to punishment by school administration if such behaviors cause a student to feel endangered while at school or if the incident disrupts the school learning environment.