Tag Archives: Bullying Is Everbody’s Business

U.S. Supreme Court will not accept cyberbullying case

17 Jan

There are frequent media reports about children and school kids who are the victims of cyberbullying. Occasionally adults become the victims of cyberbullying. Bullying Is Everybody’s Business is a great article by Liz Perle at Common Sense Media.

Cyberbulling Is a Complex System

With the statistics piling up, it has become increasingly clear that the cruelties inflicted by cyberbullying have become a devastating reality for the majority of tweens and teens.

While bullying is nothing new, when it takes place in the digital world, it’s like public humiliation on steroids. Photos, cruel comments, taunts, and threats travel in an instant and can be seen, revisited, reposted, linked to, and shared by a huge audience….

The U.S. Supreme Court has  not agreed to hear the issue of cyberbullying in an education setting.

David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times has written the article, U.S. Supreme Court takes on cyberbullying which was republished in the Seattle Times.

A middle-school principal in northeastern Pennsylvania was shocked to see his photo online along with a description of him as a “hairy sex addict” and a “pervert” who liked “hitting on students” in his office.

A high-school principal north of Pittsburgh saw a MySpace profile of himself that used an anti-gay slur and called him a “whore” and a drug user. And in West Virginia, a school principal found out that a girl had created an online site to maliciously mock another girl as a “slut” with herpes.

All three students were suspended from school and filed suits against the principal and the school districts. They argued the First Amendment protected them from being punished for postings from their home computers. And in the two Pennsylvania cases, they won.

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to decide for the first time on the dividing line between the rights of students to freely use their own computers and the authority of school officials to prevent online harassment of other students and the staff. The court may act as early as Tuesday.

The Internet and social media have wiped out the line between what is public and private as well as the distinction between on-campus and off-campus conduct at schools. A posting on Facebook makes its way around the student body far faster than old-fashioned gossip.

School principals say they are caught between the new technology and outdated, confusing legal rules.

“They need to tell us what we can and cannot do. This affects every educator in this country,” said James McGonigle, principal at Blue Mountain Middle School in Orwigsburg, Pa., near Allentown, who was portrayed as a “hairy sex addict” by an eighth-grade girl.

He imposed a 10-day suspension. A week later, the girl’s parents sued him in federal court.

McGonigle learned of the MySpace profile from students and teachers who said they found it disturbing. He agreed when he saw a photocopy. It included mockeries of his wife and children.

“It made me out as a pedophile. If any of those accusations were taken seriously, I would have been put through a wrenching investigation,” he said in an interview. The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of Terry and Steven Snyder, the girl’s parents. Their lawyers said the fake profile of the principal was “juvenile humor” that should be ignored.

The parents lost before a federal judge, who called the posting “vulgar and lewd.” But last summer, they won before the full 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. The 8-6 majority said that the posting “caused no substantial disruption” at the school and that the courts did not “allow schools to punish students for off-campus speech.” Doing so, the majority said, threatens “dangerously broad censorship” of students.

If the Supreme Court turns down the appeal in Blue Mountain School District v. Snyder, the district will be required to pay damages to the parents as well as legal fees to the ACLU.


People can be devastated by thoughtless, mean, and unkind comments posted on the web. Some of the comments may be based upon rumor and may even be untrue. The effect on a particular can be devastating. Two recent articles discuss the effects on social networking on teen relationships. In the first article, Antisocial Networking?, Hillary Stout writes in the New York Times about the effects of social networking sites on teens.     

Hans Villarica has an excellent article in Time, Dealing With Cyberbullying: 5 Essential Parenting Tips

Make sure your kids know cyberbullying is wrong. Many kids don’t understand that when they write down and disseminate feelings of frustration, jealousy or anger toward others online, it can quickly escalate into problems in the real world. They also tend to think that what happens digitally “doesn’t count” and that digital abuse doesn’t hurt, especially since parents usually focus on their kids’ behavior in person…. (More on Time.com: Lessons on Cyberbullying: Is Rebecca Black a Victim? Experts Weigh In)

Take an interest in your kids’ online behavior. Kids tend to think their parents don’t know or care about their online lives. They fear that their parents, in not understanding, will simply take away their cell phone or computer if anything goes wrong….. (More on Time.com: The Tricky Politics of Tween Bullying)

Check school policies on cyberbullying. Contact your child’s teacher or a school social worker or administrator and find out whether there is an official policy on cyberbullying. If there is one, read it and discuss it with your kids.

If there isn’t a written policy in place, ask about how cyberbullying is handled and whether there are any plans to create an official policy. Better yet, step up and join — or push to create — a committee to set the standards…. (More on Time.com: Cyberbullying? Homophobia? Tyler Clementi’s Death Highlights Online Lawlessness)

Set guidelines about cell-phone use. Many parents give their kids cell phones, so they can stay in closer contact with them. But that’s typically not the reason kids want cell phones. Rather, kids use them to surf the Web, send text messages to friends, update their social-networking status, and share pictures and videos.

Review with your children the laws that could affect their cell phone use, including limitations on where and when they can legally take photos or videos, and how you expect them to handle text messaging or Internet use. If you choose to monitor what’s on your kids’ phones, be aware that more than 70% of kids delete messages or photos before giving their parents their phones for checks, according to research from the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center. (More on Time.com: A Glimmer of Hope in a Bad-News Survey About Bullying)

Help your children respond appropriately if they are cyberbullied. First, talk with your children about what happened and how they feel about it. Be supportive. Remember that your kids feel that they are under attack. Second, report the abuse to the website on which it occurred. This can often be done via an “abuse” or “report” button or link on the site. Lastly, report the bullying to school administrators and ask them to look after your children.

Parents must monitor their child’s use of technology.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©