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Cyber-Bullying: Hold Schools Accountable!

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Could school officials have done more to prevent the suicide of Phoebe Prince? Yes, says a leading cyber-bullying expert.

Phoebe Price

Nine Massachusetts teenagers have been charged with involvement in a months-long campaign of bullying that led to the suicide in January of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince. Cyber-bullying expert Ross Ellis, founder and chief executive officer of Love Our Children USA (the national nonprofit leader on child violence prevention), says that schools also need to be held accountable.

Ross Ellis: The cyber-bullying suicide of Phoebe Prince is heartbreaking -- and cases like hers are cropping up more and more each day. Schools are dropping the ball here. I would love to see schools take responsibility and have curricula about bullying and cyber-bullying. They really desperately need it.

A mom just called me from Missouri saying she went to her school today to talk to the guidance counselor about her child being bullied. The counselor said, "You're not going to like what I have to say, but: You just have to suck it up." This is the wrong answer!

I don't necessarily think school officials should go to jail, but they should be held accountable. Bullying and cyber-bullying are happening in almost every school in the country. When are they going to take action?

I think the principals are afraid to act on bullying and cyber-bullying because they're worried that doing something and admitting there's a problem will damage the school's reputation. But ignoring the problem will do much more damage. South Hadley High School -- where Phoebe Prince went to school -- certainly doesn't have a very good reputation right now. Neither do any of the other schools where a student has killed themselves over bullying or cyber-bullying. Parents are afraid to send their kids to these schools -- and I don't blame them!

Schools need to help make cyber-bullying stop TODAY, and stop ignoring the problem. Even if they don't have the funds for an anti-bullying program, they need to at least carve out a half-hour or an hour a week to focus on this epidemic. Bullying is not a "rite of passage" -- it's a crime ... and it's killing our kids!

Each cyber-bullying suicide like Phoebe's is yet another wake-up call. When will schools finally listen?

For more tips on cyber-bullying prevention from Ross Ellis -- including what to do if your child is being cyber-bullied -- click here.

Do YOU think schools should be held accountable for cyber-bullying? Why or why not?

next: Jesse James Checks into Treatment Facility
75 comments so far | Post a comment now
hey there March 31, 2010, 7:19 AM

If it happens on school property, or within a schoool website, then yes— and education on the topic would be helpful at school— however, the truth is, guidance counselors who would teach this topic are spread so thin and other subjects are being tested on by the state, there isn’t a chance to do it…when I taught, we were lucky to see the guidance counselor once a month as a class…when schools don’t get their funding if they don’t make “adequate yearly progress”, then they aren’t concerned with social issues, but more math, science and reading— not that it’s right, it just the truth.

Denise March 31, 2010, 7:39 AM

It is a great idea for schools to have programs on bullying and cyber-bullying yes. They also should be a resource to parents of children who are being bullied.
The responsibility however lies firmly on the shoulders of the parents who are not paying attention to what their children are doing on the computer! In our house all emails that go to our children come to us. WE made them aware that this was a condition of them using email and the internet. Also their computers are in ‘public’ areas of the house so that there is no secretive usage of the computer. Parents need to know what their kids are up to and nip any problems in the bud, by teaching them that their actions are not acceptable if they are bullying others.

Anonymous March 31, 2010, 8:06 AM

Schools are not responsible for mean behavior between students outside of school, online or offline. While I think it might be a good idea to have cyber bullying programs much like the in-school bullying programs they have now, you cannot say a school is responsible for policing kids’ online interaction. It is a matter to be dealt with among the kids themselves and their parents. Don’t go to the school, go to the parent of the bully in question. And when you think some sort of harassment law may be violated, contact law enforcement. But it is 100% unfair to blame the schools for anything that happened outside of school property.

Ajibike March 31, 2010, 10:52 AM

I am 17 and in high school, and I know that cyber bullying can be a very big issue. In recent events, in my home town, schools have taken a stance on cyber bulling and even suspended students who have been involved (if the bullying was done on school computers during school hours). I think that is a very progressive step. For another perspective, check out the Radical Parenting article on Cyber bullying.

it sux March 31, 2010, 11:48 AM

im 16 and i go 2 high school and i get bullied people say to ignore it but it does hurt and i think schools should pay attention to bullying more than they do. kids shouldnt have to deal with bullying when it can be helped. and for you kids and even adults out there who are bullied heres my advice and it has helped me alot: have a good friend one that you can trust and talk 2 them about it. it can be hard especially if you’re like me and and tend to bottle up your feelings but it helps trust me. STAY STRONG!!!!

it sux March 31, 2010, 11:52 AM

im 16 and i go 2 high school and i get bullied people say to ignore it but it does hurt and i think schools should pay attention to bullying more than they do. kids shouldnt have to deal with bullying when it can be helped. and for you kids and even adults out there who are bullied heres my advice and it has helped me alot: have a good friend one that you can trust and talk 2 them about it. it can be hard especially if you’re like me and and tend to bottle up your feelings but it helps trust me. STAY STRONG!!!!

Kris March 31, 2010, 12:15 PM

No one should have to bottle anything up. In a perfect world noone would get bullied but we aren’t and you know what I say get tough with therse kids who think it’s ok to to hurt people or bully them. If legal action does not work then you go to the school board make it known that this individual is a bully. Don’t be ignored by the school or the parents of the bully. I promise you eventually something will get done especially when people see you are not giving up.

michelle April 1, 2010, 9:46 AM

The distinction between bullying in person during school and cyberbullying seems false to me. The two are very much related and I guarantee you that the bullies are not making that distinction. It is all part of a general atmosphere of harassment. If the bullying is only taking place online after school, it doesn’t make it any easier or safer for the victim to physically attend school. So yes, parents are responsible for knowing and reporting what their children are doing online and what may be happening to them, but that doesn’t mean the school is any less responsible.

Anonymous April 1, 2010, 10:30 AM

Unless it happens AT the school or on a school website then it is absolutely NOT the school’s responsibility. The only acountable people are the bully (who should suffer legal ramifications of their harassment on an adult level) and the bully’s parents (sorry but if you raised a bully you are a bad parent and probably a bully yourself). I’m tired of lazy parents blaming the school system

J April 19, 2010, 3:38 PM

First of all, I am a substitute teacher, and every single student, every day is hiding their phone, texting, or on facebook. And I have seen the groups they have made, such as “If you hate this person, join now, if we get 10,000 to join, they’ll drop out” I have brought to the schools attention that they should put cell phone jammers within the schools, because they do not pay attention to the curriculum but instead the drama, and do not realize that what they are doing is against the law (harassment)

Jane Wallace April 20, 2010, 6:22 PM

School officials should be held responsible. They have a front row seat to a majority of this bullying, certainly more than the parents(who,if confronted by the parent of the victim, would probably either deny or defend it.)
Aren’t they required by law to report any suspected abuse at home.Yet they can ignore abuse they “actually witness”, or that is reported to them.
That doesn’t seem logical to me. Where do you draw the line?
This bullying WAS reported more than once and by more than one person. School officials WERE aware of it and CHOSE to do NOTHING.
In this age of the internet and cell phones there is no place to hide from bullying. There is no limit to how far ranging this goes.
To put it bluntly, YOU school officials ARE responsible and should be held accountable. A child is dead. Because living was just too horrible to go on. And you could have stopped it!!!
And you don’t feel you should have any “bad moments”?
Why don’t you try on a few of Phoebe Princes “bad moments”?

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