by Robin Hendricks
With the increasing prevalence of social media in students’ everyday lives, more and more of their interactions are taking place on these platforms. Some are good, and some are bad.
It’s easier to assume one’s words will not come back to bite them if sent from behind a computer or phone and for years people have used this as an excuse to say things online they would not face-to-face. Often these remarks are emotionally harmful to those they are sent to or are about.
Cyber-bullying is nationally recognized as a serious concern. There are so many organizations and groups whose primary goal is to raise awareness of the issue and bring an end to it altogether. According to stopbullying.gov, 49 out of the 50 US states have laws against bullying–we see you, Montana. And according to cyberbullying.us, 48 of those bullying laws include “electronic harassment”–we see you, too, Alaska.
It is so great that this issue is widely known, but the approach to punishment leaves room to be desired.
The majority of the responsibility for finding and punishing cyberbullying lies with the education system. South Carolina’s policy is to let the school districts make decisions on what to do in situations like these.
Cyberbullying is a serious crime, but it is not being treated with the same gravity that other crimes of the same caliber are. If it were, punishment would not be allowed to be determined differently in so many different places in the state. It should instead be uniform across the state, if not across the country.
The South Carolina Department of Education, along with those of all other states, have the responsibility to deal with many of the aspects of their students’ lives. They provide public education from kindergarten to the twelfth grade. They provide meals for hundreds of thousands of students. They enforce their own school and district rules to the best of their abilities.
They should not be expected to add a state rule to the mix.
The Department of Education works the most closely with students, but with all the punishments they deal out on a daily basis, the severity of the consequences of cyberbullying may be lost among it all. When some schools give out two hour detentions for wearing a jacket over an ID, there is not much to be done to make cyberbullying students see just how horrible what they’ve done really is.
Not, of course, without taking the student out of class for an extended period of time: taking away their education and essentially helping no side of the problem.
It is simply not realistic to expect the Department of Education to give out punishments for a statewide law that is fair to all and makes students aware of the severity of the issue.
Instead, the responsibility should more closely belong to that which handles all other similar laws. It is not the job of the schools to control every aspect of students’ lives and if this were removed from their jurisdiction, more resources could be spent on students’ actual education.