Take a stand against cyberbullying

EDITOR:

Imagine picking up your phone in the morning, only to see dozens, or even hundreds of hateful messages on your social media account. In an analysis of 73 peer-reviewed articles, up to 72 percent of students studied were victims of cyberbullying. Your first thought might be: ‘Parents should control their children on their devices.’ With free phone applications, which can be downloaded and deleted within minutes, teens are able to send as many as 10,000 messages to a single sender. Students post the victim’s phone number on Twitter with the hashtag, #textbomb, and strangers join in the game. In 2011, 15 year old Haley Cox of Bossier City, La., received text bombs of this nature such as, ‘No one will miss you,’ and ‘You’re not important,’ as well as other statements which were more inappropriate. Although the school was notified, the incidents were not addressed and Haley attempted suicide several times before successfully ending her life. From September 2012 to September 2013 bullying on social media was cited as the cause for at least nine successful suicides of children and/or teenagers.

In 2011, Michigan passed Matt’s Safe School Law, which required public schools to implement district-wide bullying policies and report statistics regarding bullying incidents to the Michigan Department of Education. However, the law did not apply to cyberbullying that occurs off of school property on student-owned devices. As an educator, I have seen cyberbullying dealt with in a variety of ways.

Cyberbullying has never been intentionally ignored by school districts, however, how to approach it has been in question due to lack of guidance from the state, leaving the door open for litigation against the school districts and districts left with their hands tied. Problems associated with cyberbullying on both sides include, but are not limited, to sleep problems, substance use, fear of school and associated environments, poor grades, poor attention, and concentration, increased risk of suicide and an increase of depressive symptoms.

Passing Senate Bill 0074 would add cyberbullying to the current Matt’s Safe School Law. Doing so would guide schools in addressing cyberbullying, as well as demonstrate a need for increased Internet safety education and cyberbullying prevention programs.

Please support this bill by contacting your local representatives and State Senate Majority Leader, Randy Richardville, at (517) 373-3543 or via e-mail at SenRRichardville@senate.michigan.gov.

You can also explore and contribute local grassroots efforts by following ‘Cyber Safe Schools’ on Facebook.”

Kara Graci

Chassell, Mich.