WUFT News

Marion County Set to Change Cyberbullying Prevention Policy

By on April 8th, 2014

 

Liberty Middle School, 4773 SW 95 Street, Ocala, Fla., would be one of the many elementary and middle schools affected by this change in the Marion County Student Code of Conduct in the 2014-2015 school year.

Liberty Middle School

Liberty Middle School, 4773 SW 95 Street, Ocala, Fla., would be one of the many elementary and middle schools affected by this change in the Marion County Student Code of Conduct in the 2014-2015 school year.

Handling off campus cyberbullying has been a problem for school officials in the past because of their current policies.

This fall, Marion County public schools hope to erase that issue by updating their school code of conduct. The 2014-2015 code is being updated to include cyberbullying on and off school grounds.

Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, said kids are most vulnerable during their younger years. Often during middle school, self-confidence comes not from succeeding in areas like sports or academics but from students’ peers opinions.

And the result could be more severe than parents might expect.

On Sept. 10, 2013, a Lakeland girl committed suicide after being bullied on social media. She had been bullied for over a year. Peers harassed Rebecca Sedwick, 12, on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Ask.fm, according to The Ledger.

According to The New York Times, Sedwick became one of the youngest members of a growing list of children and teenagers driven to suicide partly because of online threatening and taunting.

After being terrorized by text messages saying things like “Why are you still alive?” and “Can u die please?” Sedwick took to the Internet to explore the thought of suicide. Sedwick jumped to her death from a platform at an abandoned cement plant, according to The New York Times.

“We’re supposed to allow students to have free speech—it’s the basis for what our country was founded upon. But schools have a legal responsibility to provide a safe school environment,” Hinduja said.

Students are now using the new anonymous Twitter-like app, Yik Yak, to cyberbully one another anonymously.

“Apps like Yik Yak are a hotbed of hate, fear and duress,” Hinduja said.

According to the Huffington Post, Yik Yak creators cooperated with requests from school officials to block access to the app in nearly 85 percent of U.S. high schools after an increase in cyberbullying cases.

The current Marion County Public Schools 2013-2014 Code of Student Conduct addresses cyberbullying incidents taking place on campus only. As the code stands, if students are being harassed outside of school walls, there’s little educators and officials can do to stop it.

The current wording in the code will be updated to meet the requirements of Florida State Statute 1006.147. The statute prohibits harassment through the use of technology away from school grounds if the bullying disrupts students’ education in the classroom.

Mark Vianello, executive director of student services for Marion County Public Schools, said the new policy is definitely welcome. In the past, Marion County schools have struggled with the miscommunication between what happens at school and what happens at home.

“Cyberbullying can be disruptive to a student’s learning. We want to create a safe environment,” Vianello said.

Tiffany Cowie, public information officer for the Florida Department of Education, said by creating better communication through the new and improved code of conduct, parents and educators can be made aware of any arising issues before they become problematic.

“Schools are very often a reflection of the surrounding communities in which they are housed,” Cowie said. “There are so many issues and interactions that occur in the neighborhoods, parks, et cetera, which eventually make their way onto school campuses.”

With social media blurring the lines between what is considered “on campus” or “off campus,” Vianello wants to make it a little less of a gray area.

He said educators want to promote a safe environment students can thrive in because what starts in school often carries over into the infinite World Wide Web.


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  • Philip Rose

    This is a complex problem, but it is important to know full details. Regarding Rebecca Sedwick, a recent article shows a wider story http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/portrait-bullied-girl-emerges-case-file-23225852. For even more complexity, there is this story: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Schoolgirl-Hannah-Smith-bullied-trolls-coroner/story-20621403-detail/story.html
    Expecting schools to deal with these types of problem is asking, perhaps, too much, especially if there is not enough training and the wrong solutions are given.
    Cyberbullying has become, for want of a better phrase, smoke and mirrors. It has become a convenient answer to teen problems and has detracted attention away from far more important issues – that of nurture and parental care, and also the availability of support from mental health/social services experts. Please – look at the WHOLE picture – don’t just concentrate on the issue of the month.

  • KidsRpeople2

    Marion County Schools allow corporal pain punishment of students by educators, mandatory child abuse reporters by law, hitting students with big wooden spanking paddles to inflict pain punishment for minor infractions. WATCH 3 Minute YouTube video trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?…
    for Documentary Movie “The Board of Education” by Jared Abrams Exposing the
    brutally violent Truth about “Paddling/Spanking/Corporal Pain Punishment”
    (internet search of school paddling blog proof of sexual violence targeting
    children in America’s schools) of Children in America’s Public Schools. Please
    sign and share petition to Congress http://chn.ge/QaERCo

 

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