This past weekend, the New York Times ran a comprehensive story about cyberbullying, a growing nationwide epidemic that’s now raising questions for educators and schools about how much they should get involved.
According to a 2010 study by the Cyberbullying Research Center, one in five middle schoolers have been affected by cyberbullying, defined as “willful and repeated harm” inflicted through phones or computers. The Times noted that while 44 U.S. states have bullying statues, according to the Anti-Defamation League, fewer than half of the states define whether or not schools have jurisdiction over electronic bullying.
Bernard James, an education law scholar at Pepperdine University, believes that educators’ main responsibility—to maintain safe schools—should outweigh all else. “The timidity of educators in this context of emerging technology is working to the advantage of bullies,” James says.
However, one middle school principal from Connecticut said, “I have parents who thank me for getting involved, and parents who say, ‘It didn’t happen on school property, stay out of my life.’”
Which side of this debate do you come down on? Should schools get involved in cases of cyberbullying, or should schools mind their own business when bullying takes place outside of the school?
Also worth noting: The Times’ story quotes middle school principal Anthony Orsini regarding his experiences with cyberbullying—you may better remember Orsini as the principal who wanted to keep his students away from social networking.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.