Students leery of schools’ cyberbullying actions: What to do

By Anne Collier

In light of some egregious cases in the news, we’re naturally seeing more and more calls for schools to take action against cyberbullying. Not surprisingly, students are wary of school interventions. “The effectiveness of adult interventions depends a lot ‘on context, school culture, climate, as well as the way in which each intervention is carried out,'” we hear from students who’ve been bullied, according to the Youth Voice Project. And in this week’s newsletter feature, students told Dr. Patricia Agatston in the Atlanta area that they felt school intervention “doesn’t really help” and cited a situation where the cyberbullying of a student “got worse” and “more secretive” when administrators intervened. Clearly, if we want students to trust administrative action and help out their peers by reporting cruel behavior, we’re going to have to get this right. We need to read past headlines like the Washington Post’s “Make strong anti-bullying programs mandatory in schools” to the well-reported content of the article: “Unfortunately, most schools don’t have programs, and many don’t have the ones known to be most effective. Researchers say that the only kind of anti-bullying program with any hope of reducing such behavior involves the entire school community” (I recommend the whole article). There’s a reason why students are concerned and a reason why we need to take their concerns seriously: in order to have their necessary involvement in resolving problems and implementing effective solutions. [For more experts on the how-to for schools, see “Clicks, cliques & cyberbullying: Whole school response is key,” “Social norming: *So* key to online safety,” and “Major obstacle to universal broadband & what can help.”]

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