Student Cell Phone Use Policies Changing

By Greg Howard – April 18, 2013

Student Cell Phone PoliciesWe recently produced a case study on how administrators in the Warren County R-III School District in Missouri used the CyberBully Hotline to reduce student fighting. In our interviews with Warren County administrators, we were interested to hear that district policy was recently changed to allow for in-school use of cell phones by students. The change in their cell phone use policy reflects a national trend that has implications for both education and school discipline.

Previously, Warren County restricted student cell phone use. At the end of the 2011-12 school year, however, the policy was changed to allow for student use of cell phones in school.

Administrators said that the change was driven by the realization that cell phones are a 21st century tool that could be used for educational purposes. When weighing the school cell phone ban pros and cons, Warren County leaders decided that the benefits of allowing phones in school outweighed the potential pitfalls a policy change might cause.

To be sure, Warren County’s new policy doesn’t allow for inappropriate use of cell phones by students. Today, Warren County students are allowed to use cell phones in class for educational activities, during passing periods in between classes, and during lunch. Otherwise, cell phones must be put away so students can properly focus on their coursework.

Warren County administrators say that students enjoy using their cell phones in school, and they are pleased with the results of the change in policy. Notably, administrators also cited the change in policy as one of the reasons why the CyberBully Hotline has helped them successfully address student fighting and horseplay.

As we noted in our school fighting case study, Warren County administrators successfully convinced students that the CyberBully Hotline is safe and anonymous. They pointed out that most students have cell phones today, and noted that since the change in policy allowed them to use their phones openly at designated times, it would be impossible for a student’s peers to know who they were texting.

The anonymity of the CyberBully Hotline and the presence of cell phones on campus give students the freedom to report their problems and concerns. Students let administrators know when they believe that classmates are on the verge of fighting. They alert school leaders when they see things that are suspicious or dangerous, such as weapons brought on campus. These kinds of reports may not have been made if students didn’t have the means to make reports anonymously.

As schools and districts reconsider the pros and cons of student cell phone bans, we urge them to look at the changes that Warren County has made. Thanks to their revised student cell phone use policy and the CyberBully Hotline, Warren County administrators have opened up a new channel for student feedback – feedback that is stopping school violence and bad behavior before it starts.

Click here to learn more about the CyberBully Hotline.

School Violence News: Student Reports Foil Secret Plot

By Greg Howard – April 8, 2013

School Violence ReportingA disturbing plot by two elementary school kids to murder a classmate was recently uncovered in Colville, Washington. The two accused boys, a 10-year-old fifth grader and an 11-year-old fifth grader, were apprehended in February and are set to stand trial in juvenile court this month.

Shockingly, the young boys had planned to rape and kill a young girl.  One of the boys reportedly said that he wanted to kill the girl because she was “rude” and because she “made fun of” the boy and his friends.

The boys had also composed a listing of six classmates that they wanted to harm or kill.

On the day of their planned attack on the girl, the boys brought a semi-automatic pistol with ammunition and a knife to school.

The violent plot was foiled thanks to tips from students at the school.

One fourth-grade student, who rides the same school bus as the accused boys, reportedly saw the knife on the bus and alerted a staff member at school about it.

Other students apparently overheard the boys talking about their plans and went to school officials with their concerns. One of the accused boys even promised to give $80 to another student if he would keep the plot a secret, according to news reports.

We here at the CyberBully Hotline applaud the students who made reports for their bravery.  Reporting a classmate can be a difficult or scary thing to do, but these students got over any discomfort they felt and stepped forward. Thanks to these students reaching out to school staff in a timely way, school leaders and law enforcement officials were able to stop the attack before anyone was hurt.

This story underlines the importance of having good relationships with students.  So much of what happens in the lives of students is invisible to school administrators. When students don’t feel they can come to school leaders with their problems and concerns, plots like this one are executed and people get hurt.

We would also suggest that this story highlights the need for an anonymous reporting program. Although students in this situation thankfully approached school administrators, there are some instances where students wouldn’t come forward. Students might not know who to talk to, or they might think that they could get in trouble themselves for reporting wrongdoing.  In fact, these exact reasons for not coming forward are often cited by survivors of school shootings.

We encourage everyone to learn more about anonymous reporting programs like the CyberBully Hotline.  Having the means for students to report what they see and hear anonymously can make a difference in every school and district.

Click here to receive more information on the CyberBully Hotline.

Effective Cyberbullying Prevention Strategies

Cyberbullying Prevention StrategiesCyberbullying is the modern form of bullying, where in-your-face taunts and threats are now done over the web. How can this bad behavior be prevented? A thoughtful article from two experts provides some helpful answers.

Before we discuss the article, however, let’s examine cyberbullying for a moment.  Often hard to escape and widespread in its impact, cyberbullying is one of the most mentally damaging problems that students face today. For many young people, their “world” is their social media presence and persona; when negative words, images, and messages are posted for all to see, the psychological damage can be severe and lasting.

With the continuous addition of new forms of social media, it’s getting harder and harder to prevent cyberbullying. Apps and sites such as InstaGram, SnapChat, ask.fm and Spillit give students a number of ways to launch anonymous attacks on their school mates. More than ever, we need new strategies to address and prevent cyberbullying in today’s hyperconnected world.

In their article Cyberbullying: Intervention and Prevention Strategies, authors Ted Feinberg and Nicole Robey offer five strategies for dealing with cyberbullying incidents:

  • Ignore or block the communications. Make a hard copy of the material the cyberbully has posted and send it to the cyberbully’s parents to solicit their help in ceasing this problematic behavior.
  • Tighten up security and preference settings to limit access to trusted sources.
  • File a complaint with the website, Internet service provider (ISP), or cell phone company.
  • Enlist help from the school psychologist, school counselor, principal, or school resource officer.
  • Contact the police if the cyberbullying includes threats of harm – cyberbullying is a crime in many states and the threat of prosecution is often the greatest resource.

In addition to the above steps, we recommend that schools fight fire with fire. An effective cyberbullying prevention strategy is to use anonymous reporting. Students usually know who’s doing what to whom; the problem is that they won’t come out and tell you. Adolescents, with their brains not fully developed, often can’t stop themselves from doing harmful things or bragging about what they have done. An anonymous bully reporting system like the CyberBully Hotline can be effectively used to stop anonymous cyberbullying.

Bystanders, witnesses and those who know who’s doing what are often fearful of coming forward face to face. But making an anonymous report is different and can often be a pathway to successful resolution. When investigating incidents of cyberbullying, appeal to the school community, the specific grade level, or group of students involved for information on the culprits.

Ask students to make an anonymous report to your CyberBully Hotline* with any information that could be used to stop the harassment. When the bad actors begin to realize that everyone around them has the means to report anonymously, bad behavior begins to cease.

*Annual subscription required. Click here to request a quote for your school.