Cyberbullying in the schools

In Education, School Psychology, Special Education on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 at 06:19

in this age of computers, smartphones, twitter, facebook, etc., it has become increasingly easier and easier to ‘broadcast’ anything, even massive negativity.  i have seen an uprising in the amount of cyberbullying by students to other students year after year.  i have many examples, and will share one from my middle school.  we had a child with asperger’s who ‘liked’ a girl.  while in the cafeteria, some girls convinced him that he should “ask her out.”  now, the girl he liked was in on the joke.  so, he walked up to the girl in the cafeteria and did what they told him…asked her out.  she pretended to be flattered and accepted.  well, my student got very excited and started “flapping” and very obviously (and in his very asperger’s way) showed his excitement.  as you can imagine, this boy, who didn’t really get attention from his peers, and especially girls, put on a bit of a ‘show.’  that night, the while episode was on youtube.  all i can be thankful for is that my student did not know of it.  but…when trying to find some disciplinary action to take via the school system and anti-bullying, we could not as the incident happened at home (via their home computers) and not at school.  while we did call the parents and have it removed, that was about all we could do.  and this is a MILD story.  i have so many more in which the student being cyberbullied DID know what was being posted/written and there was little we could do about it.  kids who send sexually explicit photos to others, kids who post death threats to other kids, kids who arrange bullying ‘events’ via social media and get others involved…the list goes on and on. 

on another note, i have also had teacher friends of mine videoed in class, then the videos were carefully edited for maximum effect and posted on youtube. 

as a side note, our district does have some leeway now to deal with cyberbullying, but in my opinion, it is not enough.

so, the following article holds promise for cyberbullying.


Teachers Fight Online Slams

Amid Free-Speech Concerns, Law Targets Comments That ‘Torment’ Faculty


After years spent trying to shield students from online bullying by their peers, schools are beginning to crack down on Internet postings that disparage teachers.

Schools elsewhere in the U.S. have punished the occasional tweeter who hurls an insult at a teacher, but North Carolina has taken it a step further, making it a crime for students to post statements via the Internet that “intimidate or torment” faculty. Students convicted under the law could be guilty of a misdemeanor and punished with fines of as much as $1,000 and/or probation.

The move is one of the most aggressive yet by states to police students’ online activities. While officials have long had the ability to regulate student speech at school, the threat of cyberbullying teachers, which typically occurs off-campus, has prompted efforts to restrain students’ use of the Internet on their own time.

Judy Kidd, a Charlotte, N.C., teacher said teachers needed a law for ‘protection’ from online comments.

School officials in North Carolina and elsewhere say the moves are necessary to protect teachers in an age when comments posted online—sometimes by students pretending to be the teachers they are mocking—can spread quickly and damage reputations.

The North Carolina law makes it a crime for a student to “build a fake profile or web site” with the “intent to intimidate or torment a school employee.”

Critics, however, argue the law risks trampling on mere venting and other less inflammatory forms of expression.

“Our concern is that we don’t throw the First Amendment out the window in our haste to get the kid who is calling the principal bad names on Facebook,” said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va., a national group that advocates for students’ free-speech rights.

Traditional issues of free speech on public-school grounds are largely settled, thanks to a 1969 Supreme Court ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines. That ruling held that students’ First Amendment rights are generally protected on campus, but that administrators can punish them for speech on school grounds when they can clearly show it caused significant disruption to school activities or violated others’ rights.

But while past off-campus insults about a school employee were largely undetected and unpunished, cyberinsults are digitally preserved and on display for many to see.

The wide use of social media, particular among teens, makes such platforms the go-to place for such incendiary comments.

While nearly every U.S. state has now passed measures to curb student-on-student cyberbullying, North Carolina is apparently the first to pass a law aimed at students bullying teachers online.

Courts have been mixed on the issue. Last year, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in two separate decisions, said two schools, both in Pennsylvania, had encroached on students’ free-speech rights by punishing them for creating social media profiles mocking their school principals. The court held that the students’ parodies, which were created off-campus, didn’t significantly disrupt the schools.

School Rules

Under a new law, North Carolina students face a fine of as much as $1,000 and/or probation if they:

  • Build a fake profile of…
  • Post a real or fake image of…
  • Post information about…
  • Or repeatedly contact…

…school employees, including teachers

In one case, Justin Layshock, a high-school student, mocked his principal in a Myspace profile parody, writing, among other things, that the principal was “too drunk to remember” his own birthday. In the other case, a middle-school student identified in court documents only by initials J.S. created a Myspace page to make fun of her school principal. using his photo and including among his general interests: “hitting on students and their parents.”

Yet in a separate case in Connecticut last year, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found administrators were within the law when they disciplined Avery Doninger, a high-school student, for posting a message to her blog encouraging people to call school officials a profanity in order to protest the school’s “jamfest” being canceled.

Even though Ms. Doninger wrote the post off campus, the court held that it created a substantial disturbance at school to warrant a punishment. Mr. Layshock and Ms. Doninger, whose cases garnered national attention, have gone on to graduate from college, attorneys for them said.

In the past year, the U.S. Supreme Court has turned down opportunities to hear those three cases, as well as a fourth about student speech, which might have brought some clarity. In the fourth case, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found it permissible for administrators in West Virginia to suspend a student who had created a Myspace page ridiculing another student.

The Classroom Teachers Association of North Carolina l based in Charlotte, lobbied for the teacher-bullying provisions to be included in the state’s School Violence Prevention Act of 2012 after fielding complaints about students using social media sites and email to make false accusations about school employees, said Judy Kidd, the group’s president. In one case Ms. Kidd cited, a sixth-grader sent sexually explicit emails about a teacher to other students. In another, a high-school student posted false allegations on Facebook that an instructor for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps had groped her while fitting her for a uniform.

“It became apparent that we had to get some kind of protection,” said Ms. Kidd, a high-school science teacher in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Some free-speech advocates say the North Carolina law gives administrators wide latitude to go after students and possibly infringe on free speech. They say the law, which was passed in July, could be enforced against students who are making truthful statements or posting undoctored photos of staff.

Thomas Wheeler, an Indiana lawyer who represents school districts, said he hoped a case will be heard by the Supreme Court and result in clear guidance from the justices on how far schools can go to police what students say online and on social media sites. “The times have changed and we are trying to get caught up,” he said.

Write to Steve Eder at steve.eder@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared September 18, 2012, on page A3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Teachers Fight Online Slam.

Retrieved from: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443779404577644032386310506.html?KEYWORDS=student+online+postings&goback=.gde_159675_member_165295745

  1. An insightful (and disturbing) video on bullying……LINK

    This makes a good companion video….LINK

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