Bullying is something that has always existed, and as times have changed so have bullying tactics. Now with the prevalence of social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become battle grounds. Over the past several months Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden has stepped up to the plate to try and prevent cyber-bullying. Biden has made appearances at all Caesar Rodney middle schools to talk to students about cyber-bullying.
Biden and Lt. Gov. Matt Denn have also created a piece of cyber-bullying legislation, which was recently passed into law, resulting in schools being required to add specific language regarding cyber-bullying into their existing bullying policies.
The legislation defines cyber-bullying as the use of unwanted electronic communication targeted at a student or group of students. In order for it to be considered cyber-bullying the communication has to be non-face-to-face and has to interfere with a student’s physical well-being, be threatening or intimidating, or be so serious or so persistent that it interferes with a student’s ability to learn.
The policy specifically identifies Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest as mediums where speech can be expected the reach a large margin of the school community. The policy requires that students be informed of these sites at the start of each school year, as well as upon implementation of the policy.
According to the policy, any reported incident of cyber-bullying would have to be investigated. The state’s education department would have to be notified of a report of cyber-bullying within five days of the complaint, regardless of the ability to substantiate the claim. If a clear bully and a clear target can be identified through investigation then parents would have to be informed, according to Prillaman.
If schools don’t comply and add the new language to their bullying policy they’ll be left out in the cold if the school district is sued.
“Capital School District had a proposed cyber-bullying policy, which resulted in a law suit from the ACLU,” said Fitzgerald. “So one of the reasons the lieutenant governor and the attorney general started to work on cyber-bullying and receive input from the superintendents was that if we adopted this as policy, should someone sue us for the cyber-bullying component of it, the Attorney General’s Office would represent the district.”
Districts have 90 days to incorporate this new policy with their existing guidelines. The policy was brought before the Caesar Rodney School Board for a first reading on Tuesday night. Not all were in favor of Biden’s new policy.
“I think a lot of language is over-reaching on what a school district should be doing, by going into the home. You’re getting school districts to police where police should be policing,” said CR Board of Education member Cheryl Precourt. “We do take an oath saying that we swear to uphold the Delaware and the federal Constitution and I don’t see where expecting schools to police into peoples home’s is constitutional”
Page 2 of 2 - Fitzgerald explained the justification behind the policy.
“This is an issue that has reached into schools. What they’re trying to say is there is a nexus between what’s taking place in school and what has taken place at home and the school district may take action,” he said.
“What they’re trying to do is give school districts the power at least to take some action to prevent cyber-bullying,” he said.
Nothing definitive has been decided on the policy as of yet. A second reading will be heard at the school board’s May 21 meeting.