New bill aims to protect students, attacks cyberbullying


Ashley Tanner

infographic by Stephanie Kang
[dropcap color=”#” bgcolor=”#” sradius=”0″]S[/dropcap]even in 10 young people are victims of cyberbullying, and 37 percent of those who have been bullied experience it on a regular basis.
Rep. Keith English, I-Mo. presented HB495 to the Missouri House of Representatives; this bill, if passed, would allow school administration to punish students for cyberbullying that occurs off campus.
“Let’s say that you are a student and after school hours another student sends something to you while they are at home,” English said. “What happens is the school can intervene in that because you are both students.”
The bill says the punishment should take into consideration the age of the student, and the nature of the offense, as well as try to educate the student on bullying before taking harsh actions. The first, or a minor offense would permit the district to mandate that the student attend counseling and education sessions. For the second, or more serious cyberbullying offense, the district would be able to take away a student’s privilege to go to school events or activities. In the instance of a third or serious offense of cyberbullying, the school could suspend or expel the student.
“We don’t want to suspend the child,” English said. “We just want to find out what the issue is and educate them on exactly what bullying is.”
Senior Lindsay Morrison remembers being outside of school environment and experiencing her first encounter with being a victim of cyberbullying. She was in middle school. Her friend had broken up with her boyfriend, and he began to obsessively and aggressively post on her Facebook wall, begging for her to come back to him. Morrison was concerned for her friend, so she messaged the ex-boyfriend, asking him to leave her alone.

“He started messaging me on Facebook, sending me death threats, and for a middle schooler, I was freaking out,” Morrison said. “I was like, ‘He’s gonna come to my house and kill me’, because I don’t know this guy; I don’t know what he’s capable of.””

The messages left Morrison fearing for her life and they didn’t stop until her father intervened.
Assistant principal Dr. Darlene Grant has dealt with plenty of cyberbullying cases like Morrison’s in her 25 years as an educator. She hopes that the bill will serve more as a guideline for dealing with cyberbullying because each student and situation is unique. With the increase of social media use, she has noticed an increase in cyberbullying.
“We don’t want any kid to feel unsafe in school. We don’t want them to feel uncomfortable in school,” Dr. Grant said. “School should be a place where every kid can be successful, has the right peer groups and is very productive while they are here.”
HB495 has the intentions of lessening cyberbullying off campus, but this bill could be difficult to enforce in smaller school districts, Dr. Grant said.  
“[RBHS] is a very large school in a very large school district that has a lot of recourses to provide to students and has personnel that are able to handle and respond to situations like this,” Dr. Grant said. “I can see this being difficult for schools that don’t have similar resources or the people with the right knowledge to handle a situation like this.”
Morrison said the law that would come from HB495 would give students peace of mind if they were in a cyberbullying situation.
“I feel like the teachers aren’t as involved as they could be,” Morrison said. “I would have felt safer knowing that more people are aware of the situation and are actively trying to stop it.”
[quote cite=”Dr. Darlene Grant”]“We don’t want any kid to feel unsafe in school. We don’t want them to feel uncomfortable in school. School should be a place where every kid can be successful, has the right peer groups and is very productive while they are here.”[/quote][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][vc_text_separator title=”Read more about cyber bullying” color=”green” border_width=”10″][vc_empty_space][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1476989131379-447f1499-1ae8-1″ taxonomies=”6903, 1225″]