Bullying is an epidemic that plagues schools around the country. It is by no means a new phenomenon, but with the advancements of technology, bullying has taken a new form: cyber bullying. Studies show that over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online. Since everyone is accessible 24/7 by electronic means of communication and since the internet creates a reassuring sense of anonymity, cyber bullying is made easy.
A bully can have constant access to the bullied student. The bully, by using various social medial platforms, telephone, email, etc, can constantly communicate with the bullied student. This makes it very difficult for the bullied student to get away. Even though the bullying may begin at home, it follows the bullied student wherever he or she may go, including in school. Moreover, if the cyber bullying occurs on a platform that many students in the school have access to, such as a social media website, like Facebook, then the cyber bullying can cause a substantial disruption in the school.
The issue of cyber bullying came to the forefront of discussion in the past several years as situations became known of students committing suicide as a result of, among other reasons, cyber bullying. One such example is Megan Meier, a thirteen year old girl from Missouri, who committed suicide in 2006 because of posts on MySpace which said that she “was a bad person whom everyone hated and the world would be better off without.” Unfortunately, Megan Meier is only one example of many.
Again, in a fictional portray, the issue of bullying and teen suicide became the topic of discussion when Netflix streamed the TV show 13 Reasons Why.
So what do we do? States have enacted legislation which prohibits cyber bullying and allows school officials to discipline students who are engaged in cyber bullying. Illinois, for example, enacted a law in which students can be punished for both on-campus and off-campus cyber bullying if the cyber bullying causes a substantial disruption in the educational process.
This is the law:
105 ILCS 5/27-23.7. “No student shall be subject to bullying: (1) during any school-sponsored education program or activity; (2) while in school, on school property, on school buses or other school vehicles, at designated school bus stops waiting for the school bus, or at school-sponsored or school-sanctioned events or activities; (3)through the transmission of information from a school computer, a school computer network, or other similar electronic school equipment; or (4) through the transmission of information from a computer that is accessed at a non-school related location, activity, function, or program or from the use of technology or an electronic devise that is not owned, lease, or used by a school district or school if the bulling caused a substantial disruption to the education process or orderly operation of a school. This item (4) applies only in cases in which a school administrator or teacher receives a report that bullying through this means has occurred and does not require a district or school to staff or monitor any non-school-related activity, function or program.”
United State Congresswoman Linda Sanchez tried to enact federal legislation that would make cyberbullying punishable by up to 2 years in prison. Her bill was known as the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act. This bill however, never left its committee.