Friday, January 15, 2010

Students in Trouble (Again)

What's in the water this week? This story comes from the Seattle Times. Apparently there was cyberbullying going on at McClure Middle School. And, apparently, it was proven as the school suspended more than 20(!) students for between 2-8 days.

Sigh. Ah, the old days when there were a couple of bullies and flunkies but now everyone can be (or so they thought) anonymous and tease/torment/bully a classmate.

I'm thinking some or all of this took place at school. Otherwise, I'm not sure how the school managed to link all this together if it was taking place at home (and the school could get the evidence). And it must have been fairly serious language (not "you're fat" which is serious but not the same as "Watch your back; we'll find you" kind of language).

Every kid has to learn to face down haters. But I can only go back in my head to being a middle-schooler and try to imagine it coming from all sides on your computer.

(I was just in McClure this week; I hadn't been in the building before. They had a lot of behavior signs in the halls with a large one in red that said, "We reject aggression, revenge and retaliation." It didn't work.)

Look, I don't look at this blog as a crime blotter for SPS but it's just been a weird week.

21 comments:

Stu said...

Look, I don't look at this blog as a crime blotter for SPS but it's just been a weird week

Actually, Melissa, I think this IS a blog for SPS crimes . . . and everything else that's going on in the district. The truth is, not everyone reads all the same new sources -- we stopped getting the Times years ago -- and I get a lot of information by reading this blog.

This administration does everything it can to do controversial things quietly. Shifting staff, closing programs, taking money from one fund to pay for something else . . . the only way to keep track is to have EVERYTHING posted someplace like this blog. That doesn't mean it becomes the police blotter, but it does mean that families can get some important information that might otherwise go unnoticed.

If I'm trying to choose between two schools, and I find out that one has had a significant amount of bullying, or that it's been locked down every week for two years, or that there are packs of dogs living in the boiler room, this information enables me to make an informed decision.

stu

Limes said...

What's in the water this week?

I'm wondering the same thing! We all need the long weekend.

p.s. I'm glad I wasn't a teen in the age of the interwebz.

NH parent said...

There was a freshman girl suspended from Nathan Hale at the beginning of the year for cyber bullying. She was threatening another girl with violence via facebook and text messages. Luckily, the victim's family saved the text messages and brought them to school and the girl was suspended for 14 days.

It didn't make the news.

I wonder how much else goes on that never makes the news?

Thanks, Melissa, for shining the light on these issues.

seattle citizen said...

I don't mean to sound like cyber bullying isn't bad, because of course it is, but I am just curious as to how it falls under District purview. I suppose if kids were sending texts during school hours, or calling during school (which they probably do, so it's moot), but if it happens after school is it the school's business?

Maybe I'm answering my own question - it had to have happened on school time, maybe even with school equipment (yes, there are filters, but I'm sure most students who want to know how to bypass filters)

seattle citizen said...

Ah, and these middle school students are also most likely using the little (expensive) cellphones that mummy and daddy gave them to do the damage...I wonder how many parents of 12-year olds monitor the use of the cellphone/netsurfer they've given their children?

seattle citizen said...

I mean seriously. You see the world-record texters in today's paper?
"The existing record was successfully broken when Portuguese competitor Pedro Matias typed a 264-character message in one minute and 59 seconds"

This is what some students are doing for a large part of their days...some students send, what, 150-200 texts in a day?

This can't be good for them.

Keepin'On said...

You know, Seattle Citizen, Cyber-bullying is real. Your light attitude perhaps shows that you don't know how serious it can get. Kids do and have made death threats to each other on home computers and in school. They have bullied kids, and the results are upsetting and disturbing.

Why WOULDN'T you want the school to step in, if it involves a ring of students threatening or harassing other students?

If I mis-read your post, I apologise.

NH parent said...
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NH parent said...

I know in the Nathan Hale case the student was texting and facebooking from home but the threats made were violent actions that were to take place at school....IE watch your back because I'm going to kick your ass at school tomorrow. That's how the school was able to step in. If a student makes a threat toward another student that is to happen during school hours, on school campus, and authorities are notified, they SHOULD take action - regardless of whether the student was sitting at home texting or doing it onsite at school.

Mercermom said...

I don't know the legal standard for taking action for off-campus activities, but it seems legitimate if there is a connection to the functioning of the school or well-being of students. E.g., if a student waited just across the street from the school to harass a fellow student, is the school powerless to take action (apart from suggesting contacting law enforcement)? As in an employment environment, it seems reasonable that the school should be able to demand that students who attend treat others who also attend the school with respect, whether on campus or off, because it negatively impacts the learning environment of the targeted student.

seattle citizen said...

Keepin' On, I did write quite clearly that cyberbullying is a problem. I certainly don't take it lightly.

I think Mercermom is right (maybe) when she says that a school can be involved if it impacts the functioning of the school (which is what the Times indicates in today's article about the incident) - That is the justification for taking action, according to the school, that it disrupts eductation.

Keepin' On, of course I take it seriously, but I am also still curious about the "line": Say for instance, that a school merely hears that one student has dissed (or threatened) another student on facebook...what IS the school's responsibility? Reporting, certainly, but action?

What if a school heard that a bunch of kids had taunted a kid at 5:00pm at a park? Would the school suspend those students?

Of course I don't want cyberbullying, and kids should be held acountable. But who does the acounting, that's the quesiton. Where does a school's authority stop and the parent/community's begin? This is a new technology and a new problem - it bears discussion.

seattle citizen said...

Keepin' on, your comment that this incident "involved a ring of students" illustrates my point: Earlier in your comment you call them "kids" but then use "students." They're kids first, the responsibility of their parents/community; where they act on school grounds (or, apparently, to the "detriment of learning") then it involves the school taking action. But think of the implications of that "detriment of learning": One kid, off school grounds, after hours, gives another kid alcohol, for instance. It is to the detriment of the second kid's learning. Is it now the responsibility of the school to take action?

I'm just curious as to what this looks like, how a school is to act regarding these gray areas.

ann said...

Well of course if a kid gives another kid alcohol after hours, and off of school grounds it is the parents responsibility, not the schools. But what if the student (after hours and off of school ground) texts that kid and says "I'll give you a 5th of vodka in 2nd period tomorrow". The text came from home, but the action is to take place at school. If the school is made aware of it, doesn't that then become the schools responsibility.

Same for cyber bullying. If a kid, after school hours, and off of school grounds, is cyber bullying another kid and it doesn't involve school then that is a parent responsibility. But if the kid threatens violence at school (IE I'm going to get you in the locker room tomorrow) then the parent should report that to school and school should take action to prevent it.

Keepin'On said...

I should have been more clear.

Having had some experience with this in the past, I would guess that the police were called by parents, and the suspensions followed. In cases I have seen before, once the police are involved, the school has to suspend students, so the parents presumably did their job in this case, and the school followed suit.

Quite frankly, our schools so rarely discipline students, that I was stunned any thing happened at all.

Good for McClure.

And to further discuss the line between parent's responsibility and the school's - we already have home visits in certain schools/areas in this district. To be sure, they are to guide a positive outcome, but the school IS interfering in the parent's domain, right? You can't allow school interference in one area, but say it is not allowed in another. The door has already been opened.

Personally, were it my child involved in something that I had no clue about, and the school had knowledge, but didn't tell me? I would be quite upset.

dj said...

The Seattle Times article today was really vague about what actually happened. It sounds like (and I would love any additional info) one student created an "I hate Jane Doe" group on Facebook and invited other students to join.

Now, that's terrible. And I don't have a problem with the school stepping in to talk to the students no matter where or when Facebook was accessed, because this is the sort of thing that could make life at school harder for that student and poison the educational atmosphere. But I wouldn't characterize the creation of that group in and of itself as a threat, and unless either the group actually did threaten that something was to happen on campus, or the Facebook group was created/accessed at school, I don't think it's within the school's purview to actually punish the behavior through suspensions.

I'm not sure whether that means I hope there is or is not more to the story.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Keepin'On, I don't believe the police were involved here. It was between the school and parents.

mkd said...

In many ways, the computer has allowed vicious teens a new medium that allows lies and rumors to fly faster and farther than the mouth to mouth kind I was tormented with in high school a very long time ago. Like then, anyone who chooses to defy the preconceived set of arbitrary social norms, is outcast, thankfully, by choice. Most high schoolers though, are not so self-assured that they willingly “walk the road less traveled.” Teens, especially in groups, can be very cruel, so cruel, in fact, that several committed suicide after the bombardment at school and on the internet. Cyberbullying is not just limited to the sons and daughters of affluent parents who give their children expensive cell phones. Someone I know found a sex ad featuring a photoshopped picture of her daughter on a very nasty sex site, placed from a computer located the junior high school computer room. Another teen I know was afraid to speak up about a drive-by shooting he witnessed because “snitching” could, he said, “get you dead.”

Bullies have always been around. The problem today is that with a few key strokes lives can be ruined because of false posts that circulate round and round the internet. Once out there, you can never take it back. To deny it or defend against it, must mean you are really guilty.

If cyberbullying is brought to the attention of school teachers or administrators, the police along with the parents of everyone involved should be called immediately. Penalties have to be severe, if only to discourage others from doing the same.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Problem is, cyberbullying is not against the law in many states. You can pretend to be someone else and do all sorts of things and they can't charge you with anything.

The law hasn't caught up with today's technology.

ann said...
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ann said...

Just checked with a good friend that is a family court judge. She tells me that while cyberbullying in and of itself is not against the law, violent threats, harrassment, and slander are. She says that threats of violence sent via text message, voice mail, or placed on facebook, etc., are admissible in a court of law. Same for harrassment and slander.

harvey said...

Any kind of bullying can have harmful consequences, but I personally prefer students engage in cyber-bullying to other types. Unlike bullying before the advent of online environments and ubiquitous technology tools, cyber-bullying almost always creates a record of the harassment. I don't know that cyber-bullying is any more severe than prior forms of antagonism, but it does bring out the threats in a way that allows them to be better identified and addressed, more so than difficult to prove student hearsay that could allow the wounds opened by bullying to only deepen and fester with persistent neglect.