Satire site The Onion this week published a tongue in cheek infographic on schools and cyberbullying, and in doing so revealed that whoever wrote it has a profound understanding of the challenges around what schools can and should be doing about it.
The headline, and the question asked in the fake poll, is “Should schools be able to discipline students for cyberbullying?”
Laws and policies vary from state to state in terms of defining the school’s role in cyberbullying – i.e. what the schools have to do. Here in New Jersey, schools are required to investigate all reported bullying incidents, so option 1 above does not apply for some. Let’s hope that nothing is being swept under the rug.
Options 2 and 3 are clearly jokes, but resonate in a weird way. On 2, many (most?) acts of cyberbullying go unpunished, and on 3, while some bullies take pains to cover their tracks, it’s obvious that in no way should a school be teaching that.
The 4th is an over-the-top joke aimed at parents implying that they condone bullying.
The 5th is a sad commentary on what is actually going on. There is huge pressure on schools to get everything done as it is.
Finally, the 6th is the most interesting in our view. We agree that parents should bear most of the responsibility when it comes to cyberbullying prevention and dealing with the aftermath constructively. In a perfect world, cyberbullying would be a family issue, not a school issue. Unfortunately, statistics show that most parents are unaware that cyberbullying is happening, even when their child is the victim.
There will always be cyberbullies, and either preventing cyberbullying or keeping the damage that it does to a minimum requires a team effort:
Upstanders not bystanders – Kids who witness cyberbullying can stick up for the victim or support him rather that laughing or joining in.
Engaged, supportive parents – The best chance parents have to hear when their child is being cyberbullied is to let children know ahead of time that you will be unconditionally supportive.
Schools doing what they can – Of course, educators are people. They want to help but they can’t do it all.
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