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Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Madison School Policy on Cyber-Bullying Picks on Blogs?

The Madison Central School Board approved some new anti-bullying policies at its Monday night meeting. I lost a job once trying to stop a bully's behavior, and I hear bullying is as problematic as ever in our school district, so I'm glad to see some action to better protect the kids.

The new policies—JFCD, JFCE, and JFCE-R in the district policy manual—bring specific language on cyber-bullying into the rules. Cyber-bullying is still not the most prevalent form of bullying—this Pew Internet presentation says that kids still experience far more bullying offline at school than they do online. Still, it's good that we update our policies to recognize that kids can use new tools for ill as well as good.

Interestingly, the anti-bullying policies appear to apply equally to students and staff, on or off school grounds, at any time. JCFD calls on students and staff to "refrain from using communication devices... to harass or stalk another." The policy then offers this definition of cyber-bullying:

Hate mail, harassment, discriminatory remarks, or other anti social behaviors are expressly prohibited. Cyber bullying includes, but is not limited to the following misuses of technology: harassing, teasing, intimidating, threatening, or terrorizing another person by sending or posting inappropriate and hurtful e-mail messages, instant messages, text messages, digital pictures or images, or web site postings, including blogs [Madison Central School District Policy Manual, File JCFD, Adopted 2009.07.20].

Including blogs... how'd that get in there? I may not have my finger perfectly on the pulse of our Web-hip youth, but my impression is that most of the online action our kids enjoy takes place on Facebook, MySpace, and gaming sites. Another Pew Internet presentation backs my supposition: 65% of teens use online social networking sites, while only 27% keep a blog or online journal. (Teens also have the lowest adoption rate for Twitter.)

Blogs are not the prevalent medium of communication for the cyber-bullying crowd. So how on Earth could blogs have earned this specific policy shout-out from the school district? Could there be some reason that blogs are prominently on the radar of high school principal Sharon Knowlton superintendent Vince Schaefer, and other school policy crafters?

Surely not.


  1. I think blogs are easy target. The bad apples (especially certain male prostitutes from Talon News) have everyone's attention. Blogs frankly are easier to understand for the not-quite-connected than myspace and twitter.

    Hence the attack from the Legislature too last year. That was really dumb, wasn't it?

  2. Good point, Curtis! I guess since we're the easy targets, it's all the more our responsibility to lead the fight for free speech online. Onward, blogging soldiers!


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