Cyberbullying: A Continuing Concern For Schools


School bullying has been a problem that schools have wrestled with for years. Traditionally, much of the focus has centered on students being bullied because of their religious, ethnic or life-choice identifications. In a recent and highly publicized situation in Philadelphia, Asian students were targeted by African American students at South Philadelphia High School. In many instances over the years, students who identify as gay have been publically bullied. Most of the bullying has involved violence, threats, merciless teasing and behaviors that are customarily regarded as schoolyard or playground bullying.

These concerns have prompted anti-bullying legislation in many states and directives from state boards of education for public schools to develop anti-bullying policies. Most independent schools have strong anti-bullying policies in their student codes of conduct to cover these behaviors. Typically policies are addressed to cover behavior at school or at school-sponsored events. But technology has created another and far more insidious form of bullying. "Cyberbullying" takes place over the Internet or through cell phones. Even if not acting maliciously, students can be utterly clueless about the harmful consequences of their online statements or cell phone-texting, and this form of activity presents a much greater challenge for schools than traditional schoolyard bullying.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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