Archive for social media and bullying
A recent fight between two students at Surfside Middle School in Florida has been “up-leveled” to the Internet. The incident was caught on other students’ cell phones and then posted to Facebook. The parents of the victim are doubly upset, not just because the school staff didn’t break up the fight as it was occurring, but also because their daughter now gets to “relive” the fight again and again via social media.
This really highlights the fuzzy line between what a school can reasonably be responsible for when it comes to anti-social student behavior. Certainly, physical assault and bullying on school property is within their area of responsibility. But, what happens when students continue the negative behavior off school time?
It’s interesting because I was just asked this question during a recent webinar I gave on “7 Steps to Eliminate Bullying in Schools: An Inside-Out Approach.” The question was about how a school should go about developing an effective bullying policy. I pointed out that a policy that addresses “traditional bullying” (physical, verbal, social) while on school property is pretty straightforward. But what happens when you begin to consider cyber bullying — do you include only what happens on school property, during school time, perhaps using only school resources? What do you in a case like this one at Surfside, where the cyber bullying occurs with students’ own cell phones and the media gets posted to their personal Facebook accounts? If it was done during school time, that’s one thing, but how does a policy apply if they do it while at home? What if the bullying occurs through students posting inflammatory comments or untruths about a teacher on social media? Where does “freedom of speech” and expression extend to harassment and libel?
As you can see, it’s a difficult question and a complex issue. Schools and districts need to be very careful how they define policies and consequences to make sure they are not only reasonable and practical, but also enforceable. AND, they need to consider this in the context of prevailing laws and legislation. It’s something that, ideally, should be done with the help of experts because there is no cookie-cutter way of dealing with it.
Of course, the bigger issue what motivates the anti-social behavior to begin with, but we’ll tackle that in another post.
P.S. Need help developing a good bullying policy that includes issues of cyber bullying and cybersecurity? Check the Resources page for our expert help.