The Fight Against Cyberbullying: A Step in the Right Direction

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

The Fight Against Cyberbullying: A Step in the Right Direction

Thumbnail image for bullying logo.jpg When a student at Oswego High School in Illinois posted an online message about his teacher outside of school hours and from a private computer that stated, “I’m so angry I could kill,” school officials knew they had a problem on their hands. The problem was, they had a kid who refused to take the post down until his parents got involved and there was little administrators could do as the message was posted outside of the hallways.

Fast forward six years and it appears Illinois might now have the solution to such instances. Just days into 2012, it appears that the quest to counter cyberbullying has leaped forward at full throttle, as a law in Illinois took effect this Sunday that allows administrators to discipline students who make threats online.

The law, which was passed in August, “allows administrators to discipline students who make any online threat that ‘could be reasonably interpreted as threatening to the safety and security’ of another student or staff member,” according to reports.

The Illinois government might have taken crucial and exemplary step forward in fighting the plight that has become cyberbullying, but there is a ways to go with this battle. A recent Consumer Reports survey conducted in the US in early 2011 reveals that one million children were harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on Facebook in the past year. Moreover, the Cyberbullying Research Center reported that approximately 20 percent of students report experiencing cyberbullying in their lifetimes. Mean or hurtful comments (13.7 percent) and rumors spread (12.9 percent) online are the most common types of cyberbullying.

The tragic thing about bullying is that there appears to be no real solution. There’s no treaty that can be signed, medicine that can be administered or law that can truly be passed (as the cops are not present at parks, kids’ homes, you get the picture).

Perhaps the Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross, who supported the legislation, said it best when he said that bullying has always been and will continue to be a problem specifically as the Internet facilitates the behavior.  “I don’t think kids are getting any meaner,” he told the “Chicago Sun-Times.” “Thirty years ago, a bully might have said something in class — now they’ll say it on the Internet.”

But what we can do is more things like the Illinois government and anti-bullying activists –pass laws that do not condone bullying, hold school assemblies designed to break down social barriers, staff our schools with more support teams. Most importantly, we need to present the image to students that bullying has become a crime – a crime that is punishable like drinking and driving and physical abuse. No step is too futile in the fight against cyberbullying. 

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