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«Tackling School Bullying: What you need to know about bullying and cyber bullying legislation, prevention, and best practices “Empowering Today’s ...»

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“There’s two to three times more cyber bullying than face-to-face bullying,” said Aimee Wood, a prevention specialist at Broward County, Fla., schools. “They don’t see a reaction, so there’s a lack of empathy. They just hit ‘send’ without thinking.” An online survey of teens sponsored by the Liz Claiborne company revealed that 36 percent said their boyfriend or girlfriend checked up on them as many as 30 times per day—and 17 percent said their partner made them too afraid to ignore cell phone calls, eMail, or text messages.

Another recent poll found that 22 percent of youth between the ages of 14 and 24 who were involved in a romantic relationship said that partner wrote something about them online or in a text message that wasn’t true.

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Hinduja’s paper called for more research into electronic dating violence. “Future research should work to identify which factors lead to harm in youthful romantic relationships and can also pave the way for more informed prevention and response strategies,” it said.

Copyright (c) 2011, Sun Sentinel of Florida and eSchool Media. eSchool News editors contributed to this report. Visit the Sun Sentinel online at http://www.SunSentinel.com/. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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Experts warn of a growing trend: Teen password sharing

Educators should be aware of an emerging trend that puts students’ cyber security at risk:

Password sharing among teen couples.

It’s something that experts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area say teen couples are doing to show their love and affection, KDAF-TV of Dallas reports. But they also say it can come with some serious long- and short-term consequences.

“They feel like it is another level of status in their relationship,” said Teen Contact Director Missy Wall, who added that it’s something many teens tell her they’re doing.

She said it often causes problems.

“Relationships change, and in schools what happens with bullying and the stakes get higher with Facebook,” said Wall.

Teens admitted to sharing passwords on the KDAF-TV Facebook page. One girl wrote, “I share my password to everything with him.” Wall said it actually could be a sign of an unhealthy dating relationship.

“If they say, ‘If you really trust me, you’ll let me have your password,’ well that is a control mechanism,” she said.

The folks behind EyeGaurdian, a tool designed to help parents track their kids’ online behavior, say password sharing can lead to even bigger problems long-term.

“That person could easily give out information that maybe they didn’t want to share, so then they’re prone to identity left, they’re prone to cyber bullying,” said ImageVision Social Media Director Stephanie Ochoa.

Both experts suggest that teens think through the consequences before granting anyone else unlimited access to their online identity.

“I would be really weary of my child sharing her Facebook page password with someone

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she’s dating or even a friend, because you just don’t know what a person may really use that for,” said Wall.

Wall and Ochoa suggest that teens change their passwords often, especially if they’ve given it out to someone. Educators, too, should spread the message that sharing passwords is dangerous behavior.

Copyright (c) 2012, KDAF-TV (Dallas). Visit KDAF-TV online at www.the33tv.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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Fake Facebook identities are real problem for schools The impersonator posed as a real Cottage Grove, Minn., sixth-grader, created a Facebook page, and posted threats that he would bring a gun to school and shoot three students.

Fights broke out in school as students argued over who created the fake profile that ridiculed the boy, a special-education student. It was not only the viciousness of the lies and threats that caught the attention of Cottage Grove police, but the youthfulness of those involved, only 11 and 12.

Amid a wave of proliferating Facebook fakes and cyber-attacks like this one—including children too young for Facebook’s minimum age of 13—Cottage Grove police and other law enforcement agencies find themselves coping with outdated state laws, limited resources, and a steep learning curve on children’s use of social media.

“There are so many cases like this, where somebody’s being harassed over Facebook, with school-age kids,” said Sgt. Randy McAlister, head of Cottage Grove investigations.

“Even if you could charge them all, you probably couldn’t send them to the county attorney, because they’d get overwhelmed very quickly. It definitely is an emerging issue.” Numerous Minnesota police departments, like Cottage Grove, are now sending officers for training in computer forensics. The Washington, Dakota, and Hennepin county sheriffs’ offices have dedicated specialists to work cybercrimes. Washington County Attorney Pete Orput has assigned senior prosecutor Sue Harris to work in the schools and learn how kids use social media to hurt each other.

“It does pose a significant problem for law enforcement,” said Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton. Last week, deputies charged a 13-year-old Washington County boy on suspicion of terroristic threats after he used Facebook to threaten other kids with explicit violence at school, Hutton said. The charge is a felony.

In another recent case, disorderly conduct charges were filed against two Tartan High School girls after their Facebook feud erupted into a fight at school.

Police walk a fine line in respecting kids’ First Amendment rights to express themselves

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on social media outside of school, while dealing with problems that result, Orput said.

“None of that is being generated at the school,” Gail Griffith, a Cottage Grove school resource officer, said of the Facebook case and a second cyber case she investigated. “It’s all outside in the community, at home, but it filters into the school, where they’re all there together, and we end up dealing with it.” The digital cases take bullying to new heights and challenge police trying to arrest offenders and prevent violence from escalating—or even leading to potential suicide. Officials say they need a law outlawing impersonations, as well as closer supervision by parents.

They also need faster turnaround for records subpoenaed from social media, said Hutton, who said deputies sometimes wait weeks.

The state has laws against harassing, threatening, or stealing identities for financial gain, but none specifically against online impersonation. In Cottage Grove, police are looking at invoking a rarely used state law on criminal defamation.

“All the laws out there are 20 years behind where we are technologically, and it’s very, very frustrating,” Orput said.

California on Jan. 1 outlawed online impersonation, making it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Texas moved to put a law on the books, too.

Orput and Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said such a law is needed in Minnesota.

“We are seeing increased use of the internet for making threats or bullying other children,” Backstrom said. “It’s on the rise. Cyber bullying is a serious problem in our country.” Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson proposed a law in 2007 that would have outlawed impersonating someone on a social media site. The bill failed.

“Because of the 24-7 nature of the internet, online bullying can be difficult for kids to escape,” Swanson said. “The words may or may not be true, but they are up there for everyone to see and can be malicious.”

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“Seven years ago, I never dealt with this, and now I deal with it at least weekly where there’s something that comes from a Facebook issue outside of school and trickles into school,” Griffith said. “It spreads so fast. It’s instantaneous. They are communicating as soon as the bell rings, and they’re out the door. They text all night and use social networks, and then they come to school again.” Although the Cottage Grove Middle School assistant principal helped Griffith interview students in her two current cases, she’s heard of other school officials saying that what happens outside of school is not their problem.

If schools do take action, they walk a fine line, as well.

On March 7, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed suit against Minnewaska Area Schools and the Pope County Sheriff’s Office. The suit claims school officials violated a 12-year-old girl’s constitutional and privacy rights when they disciplined her and made her give them her Facebook log-in information because she allegedly posted messages about hating a hall monitor.

The school denies wrongdoing.

Sheriff Hutton said the first responsibility rests with parents to supervise children on the internet and to stop online behavior that’s inappropriate and possibly illegal.

When bullying goes digital, it can be tough to stop, said Dave Marcus, director of security research for McAfee Labs of Santa Clara, Calif., a national research firm providing security technology for digital users.

“Kids are kids,” Marcus said. “They’ll gang up on people in the schoolyard, and they’ll do the same through the digital media.” Copyright (c) 2012, the Star Tribune (Minneapolis). Visit the Star Tribune online at www.startribune.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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Teen’s suicide after repeated bullying sparks debate A teen’s suicide in bucolic Western Massachusetts has resulted in several of her former classmates being charged with crimes ranging from disturbing a school assembly to civil-rights violations, harassment, and statutory rape. And now the school system finds itself at the center of a heated controversy over its response to the ongoing abuse.

Tormented daily at school and online by a group of “mean” girls and boys, 15-yearold Phoebe Prince hanged herself in January, just two days before the school’s winter cotillion.

“It appears that Phoebe’s death on Jan. 14 followed a tortuous day for her, in which she was subjected to verbal harassment and threatened physical abuse,’’ said Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel. “The events were not isolated, but the culmination of a nearly three-month campaign of verbally assaultive behavior and threats of physical harm.” Sadly, the bullying didn’t stop with the pretty Irish immigrant’s death. Even after Prince committed suicide, students reportedly continued to mock Prince and make hateful comments about her on social media sites—even to the point of disrupting an online memorial set up in her honor.

Prince’s crime? Apparently, per news reports, the teen queens ruling the school’s social scene didn’t think a newcomer like Prince should date a popular football player.

As a result, she was repeatedly referred to as an “Irish slut,” among other nasty names.

While school officials weren’t charged with any crimes, Scheibel said that Prince’s abuse was “common knowledge” and criticized teachers and administrators for not doing more to intervene.

“The actions or inactions of some adults at the school are troublesome,” said Scheibel, noting that the police investigation “revealed that certain faculty, staff, and administrators also were alerted to the harassment of Phoebe Prince before her death.”

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The issue of who knew what, and when, has spawned outrage in South Hadley, Mass. Security at the school has been increased. Some are calling for the principal, superintendent, and school board chairman to resign.

School officials maintain they found out about the bullying shortly before Prince’s death. The district attorney seemed to refute these claims during the press conference announcing the criminal charges against the four girls and two boys involved in harassing Prince.

Statements issued by Christine Sweklo, South Hadley Public Schools assistant superintendent, indicated district officials had not been given the opportunity to review new information gleaned from the criminal investigation prior to the district attorney’s press conference.

With the superintendent away on vacation and pressure mounting, the district seemed to struggle to tell its side of the story.

Statements were issued to the news media but weren’t posted online, even though the district’s web site was touted as new and improved.

After days of silence, the superintendent, school board chairman, and principal stumbled badly during interviews, particularly on television.

Sounding dismissive, defensive, and insecure, these individuals reinforced rather than refuted the stereotypical view of aloof, out-of-touch bureaucrats.

Yet a closer read of written materials released by the school and district reveal a more caring, competent, and compassionate response.

“It’s very clear that we need a district and community-wide focus on developing civility in our young people,” wrote South Hadley Principal Dan Smith in his February newsletter. “A number of people spoke about the need for parents, students, and school personnel at all grade levels to work together to proactively address this issue.” I suspect that South Hadley’s poor showing in the media and underutilized web site

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are owing as much to a lack of high-pressure television news experience and a dearth of professional communications staff as they are to a lack of caring.

School and district officials maintain that all personnel intervened swiftly and appropriately to any and all reports they received about Prince’s torment.

Although it’s a typical crisis response, the rush to blame someone—anyone—for Prince’s suicide won’t bring her back or make the last few days of her life any less painful. It’s also not fair to anyone involved, including Prince.

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