Cyberbullying: No Easy Solution

Over the past year or so, I’ve rarely posted on Facebook, and when I have, it’s mainly (approved) pictures of my children and/or family, with a few anecdotes thrown in. To me, Facebook has become a toxic place. I’ve muted some friends after the election because I can’t take all the hate that’s casually thrown around. Also, I don’t know of anyone who changes his or her mind after a Facebook conversation, so I’ll just take all the pet and/or dinner photos, thank you.

Last week, a friend of mine added me to a private Facebook group concerning a student who attends the same school as my daughter. The girl received alarming messages via Snapchat from a fellow student, who threatened to rape her and kill her family if she didn’t send him nude pictures. The girl’s family immediately alerted the school and local law enforcement, who responded promptly and are handling the case.

Many parents in the private Facebook group are alarmed that the student who sent the messages seems to still be attending school, although he allegedly was transferred to another team of kids. Because of privacy laws in our state, school officials and staff cannot let parents know if he is still in school (parents learned about that from their kids); if he’s being punished and what the punishment is, if anything.

Even though the girl’s family knows who the student is, they haven’t released his name within the Facebook group. In the span of a few days, some parents have posted comments that have taken on a distinctive tone of vigilantism. The group, originally created to support and uplift a vulnerable girl in a shitty situation, has unraveled as infighting and name-calling–among adults–has taken over. The moderator has decided to delete comments deemed hateful.

Others have organized a walkout tomorrow to peacefully protest the school district’s response, or lack thereof. My children won’t be participating, although many kids will be. I told my kids what had happened and showed them the messages the student sent to the girl, which the girl’s grandfather shared in the private Facebook group. My son has been clamoring for his own personal YouTube channel for weeks now, and my daughter has wanted social media privileges like her friends have. (Texting and Instagram, mostly.) My daughter immediately groaned and said because of that situation, she probably would have to wait longer to be on social media. I won’t let my kids take the day off because I believe that won’t do anything to help the situation, and if you really think about it, the bully wins. He wins because everyone is changing their behavior because of his actions.

My daughter has had issues with a student, on and off, since kindergarten. Teachers and staff had advised her to stay away from the other student, so my daughter left her normal table at lunch and ate by herself. Things came to a head last year and for the first time ever I requested that my daughter be placed in a different class than my daughter. But nothing really changed for the other girl. Even though the teachers were aware of a “mean girls” clique that the other student was in charge of, and separate her from her friends, there wasn’t a lot they could do.

Earlier this school year, a fellow student yelled out “F*ck you!” to my daughter as she was riding her bike home from school. She told us, and I immediately emailed her vice principal. We didn’t know who the kid was, but we knew with whom he was walking. The vice principal called my daughter into her office the next day and they pored through yearbooks, looking for the other kid. She must have found him, because my daughter said the kid apologized to her later that week for what he said. She forgave him, and we haven’t had a problem since.

Obviously, my daughter’s experiences are nothing compared with a girl who was threatened with violence to herself and her family. I feel for the girl and for the family, who must be living a frustrating nightmare as they navigate this situation. But I don’t think skipping school is a good solution to a complex and troubling problem. I hope our district policies are changed to reflect the inadequacy of letting a kid still be in the same school as the person he’s threatened, but that takes time.

Cyberbullying: No Easy Solution

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