Schools – Get your head out of the sand!

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I was reading an article yesterday about a Georgia girl who is suing some of her classmates for libel for bullying her on Facebook. When I told some people about this they kind of chuckled and mentioned that “I guess you can sue anybody about anything these days.” Then I went on to explain how this girl had been bullied for about a year and the school district, the police and Facebook didn’t take any action. Then the expression changes a little on the people I am talking to. It starts to sink in that this was not the first, second or third course of action for this family. I can understand Facebook passing it over. They probably get over a million reports of abuse every week. The sheer manpower required to go through them all is staggering. The police, I can also see them passing on this issue unless it presented a clear endangerment to the girl in question (which maybe it did at some points I just don’t know). Then it leaves me with the school. Here is there excuse for not getting involved. Since the actions happened outside of the campus they couldn’t take any action.

This angers me.

Read on past the break to find out why and be sure to leave a comment. We love comments at IT Babble.

You are a school. A place that is safe for all your students (or at least as safe as you can make it). This response is merely burying your head in the sand and saying “If we can’t see it, then it’s not a problem.” Come on, this is a naive and irresponsible response to a very real situation. Do you really believe that if a child is bullied online that when they get to school it won’t continue? Do you really believe that this will only happen after the final school bell each day and there’s nothing you can do? I know (personally) of cases where students don’t want to come to school. They’re afraid, they’re ashamed and don’t want to face the ridicule of their peers knowing that a lot of people saw people making fun of them online. This is not a safe environment for those children.

Schools who wrap themselves up in a blanket of their own rules and say “Well, it didn’t happen on campus . . . “ and shrug their shoulders should be ashamed. I say look at it from this angle. The Facebook page may not have been set up on campus but it can be accessed from campus (even if the school blocks it, there’s always a way). Since it can be accessed on campus doesn’t that make it a school issue?

Think of it in a more tangible light. If a student is bullied outside of school and that bullying continues in school, won’t the school intervene? Of course they will. If a group of students has encircled another student throwing insults at that student just outside of campus and the school knew about it, do you think they would stop it or turn a blind eye? No way! They would get involved and put a stop to it. So, if it happens on Facebook and directly affects the learning of one student and the school knows about it, shouldn’t the school be involved? I say yes.

This is definitely not as black and white as I wished it would be? I don’t think schools should “patrol” Facebook, but in the case of this Georgia girl, the family went to the school. They showed them the proof. I am not wise enough about what consequences should be doled out, but why not try to bring the families together and work to get the page taken down? Why not push the district to get involved more? Why not start calling Facebook (as a school or district) and make more noise to get this page removed?

The difference between online and real world have often baffled schools, but in 2012 to say that they two don’t overlap in very real ways is just very disingenuous. I can’t trust that line of thinking when they know it’s untrue. I am happy to say that our school is starting educate our students about Facebook and their online persona. We are asking them to take a stand against bullying and while there are no consequences set up for bullying online we are getting involved. We are mediating, we are counseling our students and parents about it. We are taking actions. We need to do more, but it’s a start. I only hope that all schools start to take action, not just because it’s their responsibility, but it’s also the right thing to do.

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About Patrick Cauley

I teach middle school technology and love to play around with tech and teach students and colleagues alike. You can read my blog at www.itbabble.com
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