Bullying policies need statewide harmony News Journal May 15, 2012
What good does it do to have varying laws defining and governing the appropriate response to cyberbullying?
This could happen as the Capital School District board considers a policy to punish “teasing, laughing at someone’s mistakes, using unwelcome nicknames, mimicking, name calling and using offensive language.”
Delaware’s Americans for Civil Liberties Union chapter has legitimate First Amendment concerns that Capital should hold off, but not for the most important reason. If, as the ACLU claims, courts have established that students cannot be punished for speech that merely causes hurt feelings, then the proposal before the school board tonight appears anti-bullying lite. Kathleen MacRae, ACLU of Delaware executive director, describes a more menacing harm that courts prefer that “interferes with a student’s physical well-being, is threatening or seriously intimidating,” so much so that it affects a student’s ability to learn or participate in school activities.
Where is the limit for school officals when it comes to cyber-bullying? If the actual event is taking place during school time via cell phone or computer the school would be in the right to intervene. After school hours where is the schools jurisdiction and authority?
Remember this saying many of us had to live by; “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Still true to this day but for sure words have become more hurtful by use of media like Facebook and Twitter.
A common language of precise standards for guaranteeing safety from bullying on or off the Internet is paramount. Capital would not be shirking its responsibility by tailoring any new policy to the final outcome of these existing bills.
A common language / definition in describing a bully sets the stage for zero tolerance and we know where that road takes us.
Delaware’s attempt to make cyber-bullying involving children a school problem is wrongheaded. If we’re going criminalize cyber-bullying there comes a point where the school hands the responsibility over to the police department and that point is when the school bell rings at the end of the day or negative social media activities didn’t take place on school time. Schools cannot dedicate personnel to act as cyber-police increasing the school’s liability. We can’t have school personnel stalking students on their social media sites which could open up another new can of worms. Parents must play an active role in cyber-bullying and be the ones to file complaints with the police and inform the school. If we are going to create all these so-called wraparound services in our schools why not just build dormitories and just give parents visitation rights! State legislators best add a fiscal note stating that DE DOE will be responsible for all legal fees associated with lawsuits by parents of accusers because for sure they’ll come back and say the child was retaliating for something the other student did to them.
If we’re going to classify cyber-bullying as some-kind of criminal offense then let’s leave the investigative work to the police. Also, you can bet school districts and Delaware Department of Education will create new management jobs overseeing bully prevention and intervention. Let’s add more police instead as they are and always will be more qualified.
Something must be done but its obvious schools are struggling to what they should be doing, educating children to meet standards. Why add another brick on the mule’s back! The AG’s office should have a cyber-bullying hotline and they can coordinate investigations with police and schools.
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