Cyber bullying - How can schools cope?

By Bonnie Leedy, CEO, SchoolWebmasters

Reprinted from the SchoolWebmasters Newsletter

Last month we talked a bit about Students and Social Media in the schools. To follow-up that popular topic, we want to focus the spotlight on bullying, particularly Cyber Bullying--but this time from the school's perspective. As you are well aware, if there are safety issues for students, the school can be held responsible. A real life example is the $4.2 million bullying settlement at a New Jersey Middle School (full story).

But, you can't prevent bullying if you don't know about it. So, where do you begin?

Step One - Get "In the Know"

You've got to have methods in place to be informed about what is happening in your school, in your classrooms, and even the issues that are carried over into off-campus activities. In order for this to be effective, you will need an anonymous reporting method. Many students won't risk being caught ratting out their friends, even when it might be in their friends' best interests. Make it easy, convenient, and completely anonymous.

Step Two - Make sure Everyone is "In the Know"

The reporting method should be well publicized so that when anyone needs it (students, parents, staff, community members) they will know exactly how to go about reporting to you. This could include posters throughout the school, cards handed out to students to stick in their wallets, purses, or lockers, and reminders in newsletters, announcements, parent notifications, and on the website.

Step Three - Educate and Encourage

Incorporate anti-bullying information in multiple formats. Create a brief 10-minute mini-lesson that classroom teachers can present several times a year. Write up a few "announcements" that can be read or added to the newsletter or website at intervals throughout the year. Write up what types of information you are providing to students and send it to parents so they are aware and can be supportive on the home front.

Students should be encouraged to report:

  • What they've seen
  • What has been done to them or to someone else
  • What they've heard might be going to happen

Remind students:

  • Their name and phone number are not shared. No one will know they submitted any information as their identity will remain anonymous.
  • They should report any kind of bullying whether it is physical or verbal, face-to-face, online, or through texting.
  • Provide students, staff, and parents with the resources for easy reporting.
    Consider adding a page to your website to educate parents, students, and community members about this challenge and provide links to other resources like counseling, suicide prevention lifelines, or other resources. Be sure you let parents and students know what you are doing within the school to alleviate bullying and cyber bullying and invite their participation to eliminate this problem!

If all of this seems overwhelming, contact our partner SchoolReach and their CyberBully Hotline to find out how to implement an anonymous reporting system in your school.

Bonnie Leedy, CEO
School Webmasters, LLC