«Tackling School Bullying: What you need to know about bullying and cyber bullying legislation, prevention, and best practices “Empowering Today’s ...»
Aftab gave the example of a student posting a KKK web site link on a black student’s Facebook page.
In response, Ali told Aftab that the OCR has no answer on this issue at this time, but is working on the complicated issue of balancing First Amendment rights and state policies.
Another question posed by an attendee addressed bullying on the basis of religion.
“Sex, race, and disability statutes are great, but are there any laws the OCR uphold that deal with religion or assumed religion?” the attendee asked.
The attendee represented what he said was New York City’s Sikh community, which, since 9/11, has been the target of hate crimes and bullying.
“So many students in schools, whether they’re Middle Eastern or not, are bullied. What can the OCR do for them?” he asked.
Ali said that while religion is not covered under Title VI, the OCR is working with the DOJ to find a solution.
What schools are doing now Although the DOJ and OCR are focusing their efforts to help schools and students with bullying, schools are ultimately responsible for the issue.
From a school perspective, Jim Dillon, educational consultant and former elementary school principal for 17 years, said the easiest way to combat bullying is to get the facts out to the community.
“For example, what is bullying? What are its effects, the role of the bystander, and the difference between bullying and conflict?” he said.
According to Dillon, education leaders must ask for help and be open to ideas, use the energy of parents to help with efforts, replace cynicism with hope, and be the change they want to see.
From a district perspective, Jack Barnes, superintendent for Sullivan County Schools (SCS) in Tennessee, said his district was recently under a DOJ Consent Decree for peeron-peer racial harassment, meaning that a federal lawsuit was filed by a student under Title VI.
As a result of this decree, SCS had everyone in the district undergo racism and antiharassment training, developed new policies and infrastructure, required school climate assessment and data analysis, and developed student leadership and mentoring teams.
“We found that involving kids in the process is the best solution,” said Barnes. “The school climate occurs when adults are not around and students can see, hear, and understand school climate issues in ways adults cannot. Diverse student leadership teams are the key to success.”
SCS’ student leadership process happens in five stages:
1. An adult team forms and meets to select members of a student leadership team.
2. Students collect school climate data based on surveys.
3. Student leaders and adults set school climate improvement goals.
4. Student leaders and adults develop and implement action projects.
5. Formative assessment occurs; leaders work to ensure systemic changes and sustainability.
Thanks to the hard work of every member of SCS, the decree was lifted by the DOJ and two-thirds of SCS students showed significant improvement in school climate.
Also, every school developed School Improvement Plans that linked school climate to academic goals.
Academic achievement also improved significantly, as measured by improvement in Tennessee state test scores in those schools that showed improvement in school climate.
From a state perspective, Amy Williamson, education program consultant at the Iowa Department of Education, said Iowa has a Safe School Law, which became part of the Iowa Code in 2007.
The law prohibits bullying and harassment by employees, students, and volunteers and is based on 17 protected categories (race, sex, religion, gender identity, nationality, political beliefs, age, socio-economic status, etc.).
The law also requires schools to adopt a policy that defines consequences and procedures for investigating incidents, as well as data collecting and reporting.
“The Safe Schools Law was an unfunded mandate that needed both guided implementation and monitoring. Implementation was not successful at first, because the mandate was not specific. It’s hard to mandate behavior,” said Williamson. “It takes new skills, behavior, and belief.” In an effort to change behavior, Williamson started a grassroots effort to help shape state policy.
Schools also must complete a standardized report form on bullying and have a data collection system in place. The state is currently in the process of altering its data collection to meet the needs of Civil Rights Data Collection.
The state also created a Safe School Certification Program. The program focuses on law compliance and elements that make a school safe, such as trainings for students and teachers about the law and programs that combat bullying. The certification is given by a coalition of diverse nonprofit organizations and state agencies that represent the 17 protected categories within the law.
“The program is important because nationally, states that see unenforced laws are less likely to want to pass comprehensive Safe School Laws,” explained Ryan Roemerman, co-founder and executive director of the Iowa Pride Network, a nonprofit organization that works with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth.
“Knowing what it takes to pass, implement, and enforce laws allows for better law creation. Ultimately, this is a transition that many states will face; this program will provide a much-needed framework.” From a national perspective, Dr. Ken Seeley, president of the National Center for School Engagement (NCSE), pointed schools to the organization’s recently released “National School Climate Standards,” which provide a standards-based approach to governance.
The five standards measure whether or not the school community:
1. Has a shared vision and plan;
2. Sets policies specifically promoting the development and sustainability of social, emotional, ethical, civic, and intellectual skills; knowledge dispositions and engagement; and a comprehensive system to address barriers to learning and teaching and re-engage students who have become disengaged;
3. Identifies, prioritizes, and supports best practices;
4. Creates an environment where all members are welcomed, supported, and feel safe in school; and
5. Develops meaningful and engaging practices, activities, and norms that promote social and civic responsibilities and a commitment to social justice.
Best practices and advice As students, schools, and states struggle to combat bullying and cyber bullying, many have forged ahead and implemented policies and laws to protect student rights safety. From teaching internet safety to using technology for prevention, here are some best practices from around the nation.
10 ways schools are teaching internet safety As internet use has become a daily part of most students’ lives, students must know how to protect themselves and their identity at all times—especially when teachers and parents aren’t there to help them.
Teaching students about internet safety has been important for as long as the internet has existed, but it’s in the spotlight this year in particular as schools get ready to apply for 2012 eRate discounts on their telecommunications services and internet access. That’s because applicants must amend their existing internet safety policies by July 1, 2012, to include information about how they are educating students about proper online behavior, cyber bullying, and social networking sites.
To get an idea how educators are approaching this issue, we recently asked readers: “Do you teach internet safety at your school or district? If so, how?” With thanks to our knowledgeable readers, we’ve compiled some of the most innovative and detail-rich answers here.
1. Through gaming “Some of the classes I teach are in an online environment. The first week of the class [addresses] internet safety and time management. I feel that, since I send the students to many sites, and they are working from home, this is a very important part of the class. I use material from CyberSmart! for my content classes. I also teach a 3D game for the middle school called Quest Atlantis out of Indiana University, and internet safety is the first requirement … before the students are granted full rights in the game. I also include three additional internet safety classes that are available as part of the game. Information about it can be found at http://atlantis.crlt.indiana.edu/. They do, however, require that teachers go through [professional development] before allowing them to register a class in the program.” —Zena Johnston “I teach internet safety through the technology curriculum. I use a trio of internet safety games from WebWiseKids: Missing, It’s Your Call, Mirror Image. These games cover cyber bullying, sexting, and predators. It keeps the students engaged as well as offering them hands-on work.” —Debra Smith, Gracemont High School, Okla.
53 eSM STAR Tackling School Bullying “I teach lessons on internet safety using the FBI-SOS scavenger hunt and on internet privacy using the Jo Cool Jo Fool website. Jo Cool Jo Fool has some dated areas, but the same concepts covered apply today. During the FBI-SOS scavenger hunt, we have commercial breaks periodically and I show the old Citibank identity theft commercials from YouTube. I also have my students figure out how to locate my college-age son via the information that can be found online. Creepy! I am a middle school librarian who co-teaches these lessons with our keyboarding teachers. It gives the kids vital knowledge and little breaks from the keyboarding class.” —Miriam Rone
2. Through analogies and student-generated projects “I am an Elementary Instructional Technology Specialist for South Jefferson Central School in New York State. I prepare, facilitate, and present an internet safety lesson yearly for all of our kindergarten through 6th grade students. I like to use analogies in my lessons, giving students a hook to … remember. This year, I used the analogy of Little Red Riding Hood—[that] things aren’t always as they seem, there are people who try to pretend they are something they are not, etc. I also create SMART Notebook lessons to engage our digital natives so that they are active participants in their own learning experience. … In grades K-2, emphasis is on computer parts, computer care rules, always telling an adult when there is a problem (I use the book Arthur’s Computer Disaster as an example), [not giving out] personal information, … being nice on the internet, and what to do if someone isn’t being nice. In grades 3-6, emphasis is on rules, cyber bullying, personal and private information, think before you post, … predators, password protection, etc. A safety pledge is signed and filed for grade 3-5 students, and an AUP is completed for [sixth graders].
“Every year, we complete a project after the internet safety lesson to ‘bring home’ the lesson material. I believe this project allows students to take ownership of internet safety and allows what they have learned to be shared by others. [One such project was an] internet safety calendar: Each student’s assignment was to create a drawing of an internet safety rule, … then they divided into groups of two to create a calendar page … using Microsoft Publisher. The calendars are printed and distributed to students at school. The file is put on our school website for parents to print at home. [In another project,] using Visual Communicator and a green screen, students have created their own script, their own backgrounds, and completed short [public service announcements] on internet safeeSM STAR Tackling School Bullying ty, cyber bullying, think before you post, etc. These movie files are posted online on our school webpage for the community. After the lesson with the fifth grade students, I bring those students to the elementary classrooms and they help facilitate the lesson for another classroom. Here is the link to all of my resources and student files: http://www.spartanpride.org/webpages/tgroff/.” —Tina Groff, South Jefferson Central School
3. Through investigative role-playing “I teach about internet safety by having fifth grade students act as detectives. Students are assigned three web sites to look at. [They analyze information such as the site's] author, sponsoring organization, copyright date, contents, [and] purpose … and compare the information on the website to information in nonfiction reference sources [and] online databases. The catch is that one of the three websites is a hoax! The student’s job is to figure out which website is the hoax. After students have looked at all three websites and figured out which one is the hoax, they share what they found with their classmates about the hoax site that made them question its authenticity. While many of our students (and adults) are tech savvy, thinking critically about what they see on the internet is still something they need to be taught to do and how.” —Joan Curtis, teacher librarian, Information Literacy Education, Schwenksville Elementary School, Pa.
4. With the help of guest speakers “I am a middle school Technology Education teacher at Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington, Vt. I am teaching a pilot class called Media in Action. The goal of the class is to demonstrate how social media can be used for learning and also just as importantly online safety and etiquette. This is an eighth grade class. Students and parents sign a release/permission form in order to participate fully. I am a teacher trainer for the [National Education Association], teaching school district staff all around Vermont about bullying and harassment. I also partner with a national organization called Child Lures Prevention/Teen Lures Prevention. [Representatives from this organization] come in as our visiting guests and speak to the kids. My students video tape them, blog about them, summarize [their talk] on Facebook [and] Twitter, and take still pics to upload to our class blog. I also invite a state special online investigation detective.