Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education Opinion

Facebook, Take 2: Cyberbullying

By LeaderTalk Contributor — May 19, 2009 3 min read

Last month I wrote a somewhat humorous poem about Facebook and why I am not a big fan of the site. That article was published on April 19th. On April 20 I found myself at the table (yet again) with a group of quarreling sixth grade girls. While sixth grade girls quarreling about the he-said, she-said stuff is pretty routine, the root of this consternation stemmed from a Facebook exchange between two of the girls. When asked how this whole thing started, Salina replied: “Jenna said mean stuff on Facebook to me about Stacie. Then I told Jenna that it was mean and she shouldn’t be telling me that stuff. Then I told Stacie what Jenna was saying about her on Facebook. Then Stacie got mad and she told me that she was going to beat up Jenna. Then Jenna called everyone a skank and everyone got mad and started yelling at each other using really bad language.”

Now, although this Facebook exchange went on outside of school over the weekend, it became the topic of conversation at the lunch table on Monday. It then spilled into recess and ultimately into my office. While I have heard quite a bit about cyberbullying via emails and text messages, this was the first cyberbullying incident I had dealt with regarding Facebook. I asked each of the girls involved if she had a Facebook page and all but one said she did. I also asked them why they allowed certain girls to be on their friends list when they know that some of them will resort to this type of bullying, and most said because they felt they “had to.” This kind of pressure to allow “friends” on one’s site could also be considered a form of bullying, as they feel there may be consequences to shutting some out regardless of their lack of Internet etiquette.

According to the website, cyberbullying is “when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen, or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.” As a public school principal, I can’t legally discipline a student for cyberbullying actions that take place outside of school that don’t result in bodily harm at school. However, when cyberbullying that has taken place outside of school becomes a school issue, as it did today, we must reserve the right to take action if the effects of outside cyberbullying threaten the safety or well-being of the student(s) in school, even if it hasn’t caused bodily harm…yet. recommends adding a provision to the school’s acceptable use of the Internet policy, reserving the right to discipline the student for actions taken off-campus if they are intended to adversely affect the safety and well-being of a student while at school. According to the site, this makes it a contractual, not constitutional issue.

So far, nine states have cyberbullying laws designed to protect children from being harassed, threatened and humiliated online. Two of those states, Arkansas and New Jersey have express language in their laws that allow for school officials to take action against cyber bullies even if the actions take place outside of school.

In a 2007 USA Today article, Koloff reported that “The American Civil Liberties Union has opposed some cyberbullying laws, saying they set up school officials to trample on students’ First Amendment rights. The ACLU helped block a proposal last year to expand an Oregon law to include off-campus bullying, arguing that school officials have no right to impose punishment on students for what they do away from school.”

While Minnesota (where I am a principal) enacted a law in 2007 requiring each school district in the state to put policies in place to address the growing problem of cyberbullying, there are no provisions for disciplining students for cyberbully actions. Our Acceptable Use of the Internet policy next school year will definitely not only address cyberbullying, it will include a clause that states something to the effect, “If cyberbullying outside of school becomes an issue in which a student feels threatened or unsafe in any way at school, the principal has the authority to discipline the cyber bully.” It will give the school community the clear message that cyberbullying will not be tolerated and at the very least will give me a little leverage when I need it.

By Nancy Flynn 5/19/09


USA Today, 2-7-2008 States push for cyberbully controls
By Abbott Koloff, USA TODAY

The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Special Education Teachers
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read