In today’s school landscape, cyberbullying replaces the old-school modes of bullying: folded paper notes shared in class or messages written on bathroom stalls. With prevention strategies in mind, teens and counselors from eight area school districts met for the “No Place for Hate Youth Summit” Nov. 8.
The event, spearheaded by the Anti-Defamation League held at University of Houston Central Law School, was funded in part by the federally funded STOP School Violence grant provided by Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) Center for Safe and Secure Schools (CSSS).
“The primary goal of the grant is to reduce school violence by creating a positive school culture and climate through various adult and student training sessions, and the Youth Summit is focused on the same outcome—reducing school violence through anti-bullying awareness training. The synergy couldn’t have been better,” said Dennis Calloway, grant manager for the CSSS.
Jason Brown, seventh-grade counselor at McAuliffe Middle School in Fort Bend Independent School District, said the use of social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram for cyberbullying has increased 100 percent in recent years.
“What the Internet and social media allows is for someone to hide behind their computers and not face the person who they are negatively impacting,” said Brown.
He credits David’s Law, Texas Senate Bill 179, making it a crime to cyberbully during and after school hours.
“Cyberbullying is not just wrong morally, but it’s also now criminally wrong,” said the counselor who praised his district for being proactive in reducing cyberbullying.
Julia Andrew is director for HCDE’s CSSS and says the summit helps support positive school climates. Besides providing services such as safety audits for school districts, the CSSS promotes trainings which help build healthy relationships on school campuses, part of a larger initiative called social-emotional learning.
“Students sometimes feel there is no place to go and just accept cyberbullying,” said Andrews. “There are 261 students here today who are saying that it is not okay.”
Students Macian Fussell and Emilia Strother attended the summit to gain strategies to take back to McAuliffe Middle School. Proactive tactics include taking screen shots of bullying on social media and sharing the proof with teachers and administrators at the school.
“We are learning how to deal with cyberbullying, but it’s difficult,” said Strother.
“I tell my friends to ignore it (cyberbullying) and don’t let it get you off-track. You can go to an adult and talk all your problems away.”
As students who can connect to classmates in several different social circles, the two girls are what Counselor Brown calls “influencers.”
“We are looking for workable solutions that the kids will take back into their schools and spread to their friends,” said Brown. “That’s our goal.”
One idea the teen influencers invent is “Free Compliments Monday,” a day to build relations versus eroding them. Another is “Blue Shirt Day,” a suicide awareness day to bring awareness to the results of bully.
At day’s end, students and teachers have cultivated some good ideas—concrete solutions to combat the negativity of social media and cyberbullying. They know what they can do to stop bullying when they see it, but they also have ideas about building a positive school community.
(This project was supported by Grant No. 2018-YS-BX-0153 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Program, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U. S. Department of Justice.)Source: HCDE