OPINION: Don’t lay it all on schools’ shoulders

July 13, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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It would seem that New York schools have enough to do educating students and preparing them for the work force.

Now they are responsible for halting online bullying of their students.

A new state law will compel schools to handle reports of students bullied through emails, electronic messaging or social networking sites. Schools will be required to train staff, contact police in some cases and inform the community about the policies.

The schools must respond to incidents that happen away from their campuses which could disrupt school activities or cause students to fear for their safety…

School districts must designate an official to receive and investigate bullying reports. School staff who see bullying or hear about it must inform that official orally within one day or in writing within three days. It falls to each school's bullying czar to investigate all reports promptly, stop the bullying, prevent it from recurring and protect the person who reports the harassment from retaliation.

What defines cyberbullying, by the way? Certainly threats to do physical harm to a person would qualify. But what about more subtle teasing or unkind comments deriding someone's appearance?

Many school districts have a program to curb bullying on school grounds. School personnel may address bullying that occurs elsewhere — if it is brought to their attention.

But it is unreasonable to require schools to handle off-campus and online incidents — to solve the problem and make it right with all parties within a time specified by the state.

Bullying is a serious problem in many cases. Schools can be expected to police their campuses. Yet making educators responsible for the cyber world as well is asking and mandating the impossible.

Excerpt from an editorial in Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times

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