Susan Michael encourages people to email her for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her “Stop the Bullying Now!” pamphlet for educators can be found for purchase on her website www.givingvictimsavoice.com or on Amazon.com.
A summary and full version of the Ohio Department of Education’s anti-harassment, anti- intimidation, or anti-bullying model policy can be found here.
By Vivian Goodman and Alison Ritchie
Bullying is an old problem, exacerbated by new technology.
Texting and social networking are handy weapons, especially in middle and high schools. Cyberbullies can launch stealth attacks from anywhere, at any time.
Kim Mason, assistant professor of counseling at the University of New Orleans, helped define cyberbullying for the Ohio Board of Education. She said most cyberbullies are “entitlement bullies;” they think they’re better than everyone else.
“They are the captain of the football team, the cheerleaders; they are in the honor society. These are the students who typically do not get in trouble in school, but they are the students doing the cyberbullying,” Mason said.
Typically cyberbullies don't get caught or punished.
If an attack happens on school grounds, and a case can be made that it creates an unsafe environment, school officials can punish the bullies. But Mason said when cyberbullying happens outside of school, free speech prevails.
“There really is not a specific law that schools have an obligation to step in and discipline a student for off-campus speech,” Mason said.
Law enforcement authorities are often stymied, too, when it comes to cyberbullying.
Campus Impact goes into Northeast Ohio schools to help children defend themselves against bullies. Director Todd Walts can cite only one cyberbullying case in which police got involved. It resulted from one of Campus Impact's presentations at a school assembly.
“We talked about what you should do if you’re being cyberbullied or if you know somebody who’s being cyberbullied,” said Walts. “A week after that presentation, a girl came up … and said, ‘Do you know that there’s a Facebook page about you?’
“She went home and she pulled it up. She saw all the things that supposedly she had written about all these other students and the comments they had made back.”
It turns out the fake page was the talk of the school.
“They started off by posting just some comments about other people in the school,” said Walts. “Negative things, you know: Tom’s fat, Joe’s gay, derogatory comments about people’s sexual preference.”
The girl told her mother, who appealed to school authorities. They initially told here there was nothing they could do.
But then racial slurs and direct threats popped up on the page.
“We advised Mom that she should contact the local police,” said Walts. “She did and now because those two things happened, they could get involved. It took months to work through Facebook, the internet provider and the cell phone provider because some of the postings were made using an iPhone. It took them almost four months to find the identity of the person who created this page and to pursue the charges against that student, so that it could stop.”
Signs of cyber-bully targets
In most cases, cyberbullying victims – like other bullying victims – don’t tell anyone what they’re going through. But Susan Michael, who coaches educators in bullying prevention, said teaches can help if they know what to look for.
“Teachers are known to be perceptive,” said Michael. “How do you know the student’s being affected by cyber-bullying? That is when you start as a teacher to look at the signs.”
They include many of the signs of other troubles: behavior changes, a drop in grades, an increase in absences, withdrawal.
When such symptoms show up, Michael says, it’s time to pull a student aside and find out what’s wrong.
But even if help's available, some bullying victims will remain silent, due to either fear or disability. In part three of Mean Kids, we'll tell their stories.