Threat of Legal Action Powerful Tool Against Cyberbullying

By Paul Langhorst             November 6, 2012

A very moving post this morning by Laura Shumaker, regarding her autistic son’s encounter with a “mean text” sent by an unknown individual, serves as a reminder that the threat of legal action, is often a good way to stop cyberbullying incidents. Laura Shumaker, is a writer and autism advocate.

In this incident, her 26-year old autistic son, Mathew, received a text that read, “U are a loser. U have no friends.” This caused Mathew to become fearful and triggered him to call 911, followed by a panicked call to Laura. example of cyberbullying message

According to Laura, Mathew’s autism makes it a struggle to keep friends. Mathew has a tendency to ask repetitive questions and make repetitive overtures to “hang” out with people he may accidentally call or encounter. In this case, the mean texter had been previously called by Mathew and Mathew’s repeated attempts to connect may have caused the texter to lash out in frustration.

The genius in Laura’s response to the texter was that she threatened to call the police if the texter sent any further messages.  While Laura may have made this threat without actually knowing the law in this case, her actions and the results are a reminder that the transmission of intimidating or harassing messages via electronic means (a.k.a “cyber bullying”) is now illegal in most states.  Laura’s reply triggered an immediate apology by the texter, which is rare and commendable on the part of the texter. The texter likely did not know of Mathew’s autism, but realized he/she had crossed a line with their response.

This is a good lesson to parents and school administrators to bring the threat of legal action to the table when dealing with cyberbullying incidents. Before doing so it is important to know your state’s cyberbullying law and the good folks at www.stopbullying.gov make this easy with their website to look up bullying laws by state. Often times when the threat of police or legal action is brought into the discussion, the bullying or unwanted behavior stops.

My discussions with SRO officers supports this. At a recent roundtable event, Missouri SRO’s shared that the most effective tool they have is the law. When a bullying or harassment incident reaches them, they counsel both victim and bully, explaining how the behavior is breaking the law and their action’s legal consequences.

Most kids probably don’t know that their bullying behavior is actually illegal in most states, but adults should, and those that are charged with protecting the welfare of a child, whether parent or teacher, should use the law to the fullest extent to prevent and stop cyberbullying.

 

 

 

More Missouri School Districts Implementing Anonymous Reporting

By Paul Langhorst        October 31, 2012

The trend is clear…more and more Missouri school districts are implementing the CyberBully Hotline anonymous bullying reporting solution. The program, launched by SchoolReach in March of 2012 is quickly becoming the go-to choice for anonymous reporting needs.  Offering text and phone based access, the CyberBully Hotline is designed to meet students where they live – on line, and give them a voice that they did not have before.

“Many of our clients feel they are not faced with significant bullying issues, but still want to offer students a more comfortable and convenient way to say what’s on their mind,” said Joe Palacios, CEO of SchoolReach. “Many of those same customers are surprised to learn after they have implemented the CyberBully Hotline, that they did not have a full picture of what was happening at their schools, on their buses and elsewhere.”

The Affton, Wentzville, Bayless and Hancock school districts are just a few of the districts in Missouri that have implemented the CyberBully Hotline or are in the process of doing so.

The Wentzville school district is a prime case study of a district that was already fully engaged with robust bullying prevention efforts, but yet felt some form of anonymous reporting was needed to help students who might be reluctant to come forward. Upon implementation, the district was pleased to see that students were using the program appropriately to report on matters that were previously not being discussed and that parents were also using the program to report on incidents that their children were reluctant to address with their teachers.

If you would like more information on how the CyberBully Hotline can increase the effectiveness of your bulling prevention efforts, please contact us or call us at 1-800-420-1479.

Effective Bullying Prevention – What Works?

By Paul Langhorst                           October 24, 2012

National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month is coming to a close.  While it has not gained quite the status as Thanksgiving, or our other major holidays, the designation of October as National Bullying Prevention Awareness month has brought increased focus on the problem of bullying and building an effective bullying prevention program.

With all the added attention, it begs the question – what is an effective anti-bullying program?  I can tell you what its not:

  • It is not an annual “stop bullying day” where students get T-shirts and wristbands – if that is the only thing your school or district does all year.
  •  It is not having a speaker come in once, not to be supported by other ongoing efforts.
  • It is not signs or posters in the hall, or a pledge on the wall, if that is the only thing happening all year.
  • It is not a policy in your school handbook, if it is not supported with other proactive measures.
  • It is not a reactive “zero tolerance” policy, if not supported by proactive measures.

Effective bullying prevention is a continuous effort consisting of policy, education, training, reporting, motivation, dialogue, intervention, investigation, action, counseling and discipline/consequences that happen across the entire school year.

Recently I attended the Missouri School  Board Association’s Bullying Summit and during one session the speaker asked the audience members to raise their hand if they did not have a comprehensive bullying prevention program that consisted of ongoing multidimensional efforts as outlined above. The entire room raised their hand, save for a few individuals…well, there’s your problem right there!  Bullying will never be fully addressed if a comprehensive program is not put in place to address it.

As we work with districts across the country, here at the CyberBully Hotline, we encounter schools/districts that fall into two broad categories –  those that have comprehensive bullying prevention plans in place, or are under development, and those that have disjointed efforts, host sporadic events and do not appear to be heading toward a comprehensive program.  The difference?  School leadership. If the school leadership, be it the school board, the superintendent of an entire district or the principal of a single private school, does not see bullying prevention as a priority, little gets done. Those that make it a priority move heaven and earth to put an effective program into place.

The benefits of an effective, comprehensive bullying prevention program are significant. Not only are students spared the humiliation and torture of bullying, but the overall school climate and its cohesiveness as a team will grow. Absenteeism decreases and student performance increases, which can have a huge impact on district funding. There are also cost savings to be hand, and potentially the avoidance of legal bills and financial settlements which are on the rise.

We would like to offer our congratulations to those school leaders who see bullying prevention as a priority and encourage others to see it in the same light. Your students, school and community will benefit greatly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Effective Bullying Prevention Strategies Sponsored by CyberBully Hotline at MO-CES Bullying Summit

By Paul Langhorst                                         October 19, 2012

School administrators, teachers and counselors in Missouri were offered a fantastic opportunity to learn effective bullying prevention strategies first-hand during the Missouri Center for Education Safety’s first-annual Bullying Summit. The event was held on October 18th and consisted of multiple breakout sessions and keynote speakers who offered information and insight into today’s bullying prevention problems.

As a Missouri-based program, the CyberBully Hotline was honored to take part in the event through our sponsorship of Scott Poland, Ed. D, who gave the keynote address: “Bullying Victimization and School Safety.”  Scott Poland, is a psychologist and mental health expert and gave a riveting presentation on the links between bullying, harassment and suicide.

Dr. Scott Poland is a nationally recognized expert on school crisis, youth violence, suicide intervention, self injury, school safety, threat assessment, parenting and the delivery of psychological services in schools.  He has lectured andBullycide as Explained by Dr. Scott Poland written extensively on these subjects, appeared on all major television network news programs, and has presented over 1,000 workshops in every state and numerous foreign countries. He served on the President’s Roundtable on Youth Violence and has testified about the needs of children before the U. S. Congress on four occasions Dr. Poland is a founding member of the National Emergency Assistance Team for the National Association of School Psychologists and serves as the Prevention Director for the American Association of Suicidology.

The event also showcased many bullying prevention programs including, the CyberBully Hotline, Olweus, CharacterPlus, GreenDot, and featured other presentations, including Lynn Lang from the Archdiocese of St. Louis who spoke on Virtue-Based Restorative Justice ™, and Scott Sommers, an attorney with the Missouri School Boards Association who covered Missouri bullying statutes and case law.

 

 

 

Suicide is NEVER the Answer. Tragedy in Luzeren County, PA

By Dr. Nicole Yetter,   Bullying and Education Consultant           October 11, 2012

It is with an extremely heavy heart that I write this month’s blog. Tragedy has struck a small town in Northeastern, PA. In one week, the lives of four Luzerne County schoolchildren had ended from suicide. This senseless act reinforces the need for a call to action by everyone, not only in the Luzerne County region, but all across America. Sadly, many of the students claim that bullying and harassment may have played a role in the suicides of their classmates.

Suicide is never the answer! Suicide is preventable and talking about it can help save lives. In a recent Youth Risk Survey, 25% of teens have thought about suicide and 90% of those that did commit suicide have severe mental health or substance abuse issues. Children and adults need to know there is an outlet and someone will be there to listen.

If ever a student threatens to harm themselves in some way, offer these words of encouragement:

  • “I want you to live.”
  • “I’m on your side and care about you.”
  • “We’ll get through this together.”
  • “I am here to help.”

These words can help cut through the isolation and desolation they are feeling. Caring May Save A Life And Hope Begins With You!

On behalf of the CyberBully Hotline and myself, we send our sincere condolences to all those affected by this tragedy in Luzerne County and to all of those that may be struggling across America. Help is available, please don’t give up!

Join the CyberBully Hotline webinar: Suicide in School Community: Response and Recovery.

More suicide resources:

 

Anonymous CyberBully Hotline Implemented by Wentzville, MO School District

By Paul Langhorst                October 10, 2012

The Wentzville, MO School District announced the kick off of their CyberBully Hotline program to their parents and school community on Monday October 8th.  The school district utilized parent engagement best practices in their announcement, incorporating news of the service across all their school communication channels; including: website, social media sites, and issued a press release on the matter which was picked up locally by Fox 2 News.

As reported by Fox 2:Anonymous bullying reporting program helps fight bullying at Wentzville School District

“The program helps create an anonymous way for people to report bullying, harassment or intimidation.

A designated school official gets the message and can have an anonymous conversation, which the district hopes will encourage students to use it. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If parents or students have any questions or require further information, they can contact any school office, visit the CyberBully Hotline section of the District website, or visit www.cyberbullyhotline.com to learn more.”

Wentzville School District is joined by the Hancock and St. Louis Special School Districts who have implemented the CyberBully Hotline since the beginning of the 2012-13 school year and represent a new trend by school administrators who embrace new anonymous reporting systems as a means to reach students who may be fearful of an initial face to face meeting.

From the CyberBully Hotline team…way to go Wentzville, Hancock, and the St. Louis Special School District!

Bad Behavior is Learned – The Cards – Braves “Lesson”

By Paul Langhorst                               October 7, 2012

Once again I am thrilled to see my St. Louis Cardinals in the post-season hunt.  In 2011, they came from 10 games back with 30 days to play to make it into the post-season. This year the end of the season was equally dramatic but not so graceful.  With the season again coming down to the wire, the Cardinals earned the newly created 2nd NL Wild Card spot and the right to play in the single-game wild card playoff.

What does all this have to do with bullying?  Like Yadier Molina legging out a double…I’m getting there.

After being down 2-0, throwing errors by Chipper Jones and Matt Uggla, coupled with timely hitting and aggressive play, allowed the Cards to go up 6-3 on the Braves. Then in the bottom of the 8th, with two on, Brave’s Andrelton Simmon, hit a shallow fly ball to left field. Cardinal’s shortstop Pete Kazma, camped out under it and then suddenly veered away as left-fielder Matt Holliday approached.  Based loaded right? No!  Left-field line umpire Sam Holdbrook called “infield fly – batter out.”

After a long discussion with the Braves manager and baseball commissioner Joe Torre, MLB VP of Baseball Operations, who upheld the call, the fans erupted in furor tossing bottles, foam tomahawks, and anything not nailed down on to the field. The scene was eerily reminiscent of Disco Demolition Night in 1979 at Comiskey Field and 10-cent Beer Night in 1974 at Cleveland Field.  (It scares me that I remember these things – I am getting old!)

Getting to my point…Yadier makes it to 2nd!

While the Braves fans’ frustration is understandable, their behavior is not. Imagine how many young fans at the game and watching on TV got a lesson in how to react to adversity and disappointment.  A lone fan tossing a bottle is an idiot. Thousands doing the same is a reflection of our culture I fear, where today if you don’t like something you tear up the place. How many reality TV shows now feed our youth a daily stream of violence as when a boy starts a conversation with another girl, or when one talent show judge makes a remark that does not sit well with another.

Bad behavior is learned.  Babies are not born fighters and bullies, they are converted into them by parents, siblings, relatives, peers and even by so-called “TV stars” who show them how its done. Experts say bullying behavior is learned starting at the age of 3-4; by the time a kid starts school they may have had years of coaching in bullying and abuse.  Then, already overloaded school administrators must face the hard task of picking up the pieces where this behavior has 8 hours a day to manifest itself. Worse yet, through social media, bad behavior runs rampant on the internet where bullies can practice their trade with even less restraint.

So, sports fans, parents, brothers, sisters, and Reality TV stars, the next time you toss a bottle, an insult, or a punch, consider what message you are sending and who may be watching; and like the field crew at Braves stadium, who is left to clean up your mess.

Go Cardinals!!! 12 in 12!!!

 

 

Restorative Justice – Advice to a Parent

By Paul Langhorst                      October 4, 2012

Following up on my post earlier this week on restorative justice, where I highlighted a new article, Restorative Justice: The Opportunities and Challenges, by CyberBully Hotline contributor, Janet M. Irvine, I would  like share a new article that I ran across in my daily reading – Mr. Dad:  Fight Bullies with Restorative Justice, by Armin Brott.

In this article, a dad posts a question of how to respond after learning that is son is being bullied by an older child at school and is now pleading “not to have to go to school.”  Brott first addresses “Mr. Dad” and praises him for questioning his son and persevering with dialog until the son comes clean with his bullying problem. Brott then goes on to explain how schools have handled bullying in the past: ineffective peer mediation (bringing the bully and victim together); and even more infective, bully group counseling (bringing all the purported bullies together). Brott ends with an explanation of “restorative justice,” sharing an example of how if a bully smashed a kids lunch box, the bully would be required to replace the lunch box.

I encourage you to read Brott’s full article, which can be found here.

As Janet Irvine pointed out in her article, about the challenges of implementing a restorative justice program, the technique holds significant long-term potential for reduction in bullying behavior, however the downside is that it takes significant time and training for one to become skilled in the process. Furthermore, the penalties for non-compliance with the restorative justice measures are often voluntary or subject to bully-parent participation (the bully-parent providing money  for the replacement lunch box) and the same weakly enforced policies of the institution that allowed the bullying to happen in the first place.

In a perfect world, the lunch box would be replaced and bully-victim would be come friends and ride off in the sunset together.  When restorative justice works, it works well, and the results can be long lasting. The challenge is developing the skill and infrastructure to allow it to work.

If your school is seeking to develop a restorative justice program, here are some helpful links to additional information:

 

 

Suicide in the School Community – Response and Recovery: Webinar Event

In recognition of National Bullying Awareness Month (Oct 2012), please plan on joining us for a Professional Development webinar: Suicide in the School Community: Response & Recovery.

Expert in Teen Suicide - Tina MeierOur special guest speakers are Tina Meier of the Megan Meier Foundation and suicide/ mental health expert, Scott Poland.

The webinar is set for Monday, Oct. 15th, 2012 from 10:30-11:30 AM CDT  Register for this powerful webinar here.

Since her daughter Megan’s suicide, Tina Meier has committed her life to battling bullying and cyberbullying. Tina Meier is helping school administrators across the country expand their knowledge of the impact of bullying on kids and their families.

Dr. Scott Poland is a nationally recognized expert on school crisis, youth violence, suicide intervention, self injury, school safety, threat assessment, parenting and the delivery of psychological services in schools. From Dr. Poland learn about the link between bullying and suicide; learn warning signs of suicidal behavior and thoughts; learn tips on how to speak to students and your communities about suicide; and learn best practices for dealing with the aftermath of a suicide in your school community.

Bullying Prevention Partner Page Added to CyberBully Hotline Website

By Paul Langhorst                 September 1, 2012

Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!

It’s Saturday morning, 7:46 AM, and I am laboring away on the CyberBully Hotline website launching a new partner page which can be found here: http://www.cyberbullyhotline.com/partners.html.

This page currently features two of our partners, Web Wise Kids and the Megan Meier Foundation. More are in development and their logos and brief description will be added shortly. Our partners help guide and refine the services offered by the CyberBully Hotline or may offers services which can be used to augment overall bully prevention efforts. We encourage you to check them out, and check back often to see who has been added.

Don’t work too hard over the Labor Day Weekend!