What Should Schools Do to Address Cyberbullying?
Ensuring that children are equipped to deal with cyberbullying requires education to prevent cyberbullying and effective responses when it occurs or is suspected.
Adopt school policies that specifically address cyberbullying.
Schools should integrate cyberbullying into their district acceptable use policies for technology and required bullying policies. If the issue of cyberbullying is a persistent problem, it may be appropriate to have a specific policy related to online harassment and cyberbullying.
Develop clear administrative guidelines for responding to and investigating reports of cyberbullying.
Make sure these guidelines clearly spell out how investigations will be conducted, when law enforcement or parents will be contacted and how discipline will be administered. While it may not be possible for schools to administer disciplinary consequences for online behavior that occurs outside of school, schools may conduct educational meetings with students and parents to share their concerns and discuss possible responses.
Include cyberbullying education as part of the scope and sequence of courses that promote technology literacy.
In addition to educating students about these issues, schools should work to educate parents about technology and youth development by integrating these themes into newsletters and outreach activities, including tips on how to prevent and respond to cyberbullying.
Establish partnerships with parents, the school, the parent-teacher association, YMCA, police department and other community groups to develop strategies for addressing issues of cyber-safety and cyberbullying.
Consider inviting representatives of law enforcement or the local district attorney office to participate in an advisory group that develops these strategies.
Integrate cyberbullying into memorandums of understanding with the local police department.
Make sure the school and law enforcement know how each entity will respond to cyberbullying and when it is appropriate to refer online issues to the police.
Recognize that when cyberbullying is motivated by a child’s status as a member of a protected class, the school may have an obligation to act under federal and state civil rights laws.
In such cases, the administrators should consult the school solicitor or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. Protected status categories include: race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, gender, handicap or disability, use of a guide or service animal, G.E.D. versus high school diploma, being known to be related to a handicapped or disabled person, and being retaliated against for reporting crimes.
Provide support to students that experience cyberbullying, even if the incident did not occur in school.
Because children experience real distress when bullied online, it is important that adults pay attention and offer support. School counselors and SAP professionals may play a role in helping children cope with the emotional effects of cyberbullying. Schools should make referrals to professionals, when appropriate.