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Bullying law is called for

July 26, 2012
The Leader Herald

No doubt school districts have been dealing with all versions of student bullying for many years. A new state law that targets cyberbullying - bullying through electronic means - fulfills a vital function by focusing greater attention on a more contemporary means of victimizing young people.

The new law puts the onus on school districts to set up policies and procedures to prevent and stop cyberbullying, including designating someone in each district to investigate and coordinate the district's response to reports of cyberbullying, and to educate staff.

Whether cyberbullying occurs on- or off-campus, districts must deal with incidents that are substantially harmful to a student or the school environment. The law ensures that school officials can't blow off student or parent complaints.

Although young people obviously spend most of their time in school, the new law unfortunately puts another weight on already overburdened schools.

To help the districts, innocent bystanders - youths or adults - who witness or are aware of bullying ought to report it, if they are to preserve their innocence. Will they be Good Samaritans or ignore the victim's plight as none of their business?

Besides the schools' responsibility, parents, community leaders and social-service and health-care professionals should inform themselves about the problem and what to do about it.

The increased reporting and negative effects of cyberbullying are well-established, including severe emotional distress and even suicide. A 2011 article titled "Bullying and Suicide: Detection and Prevention" in Psychiatric Times points out surprisingly that both bullies and those bullied are at greater risk for suicide. Bullying is clearly abnormal behavior. The community, while protecting victims, ought to help bullies with their emotional dynamics. Could today's youthful bully someday become an abusive spouse or parent?

We also can't help but think that cyberbullying is exacerbated by larger social issues that schools can't control: spouse and child abuse, disintegration of the family, drug and alcohol addictions, and the decline of traditional religion and morality. Let's face it - the simpler, safer child's world depicted in the old television shows "Leave It to Beaver" (1957-1963) or "Father Knows Best" (1954-1963) may be gone forever.



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