Cyberbullying can lead to "real world" consequences
JEFFERSON CITY – Despite being over the Internet, cyberbullying can have very real consequences, and the Missouri House of Representatives is working to try and cut down on what it considers a big problem among kids.
There are two bills working through the House that would show exactly how school districts should handle cyberbullying. Rep. Keith English, I-Florissant is working on one of the bills and an amendment to another on cyberbullying.
Rep. English said, “We want to make sure that we can pass legislation that isn’t feel-good legislation, but that does have some teeth to it. So that we can give them a tool to work in the right direction on not only fixing but finally eliminating any possibility of cyberbullying.”
He said he expects the bill to make it through the House and into the Senate in the near future with little delay.
“1384 is a bill that give the school district the tool—if they wish to use it—on exactly, step-by-step the punishment that will happen to every single student that cyberbullies on or off their campus,” Rep. English said.
Many other states have bullying and cyberbullying laws already in place, but less than half of them include cyberbullying or off-campus behavior that causes disruption in the classroom.
The stand-alone bill Rep. English worked on would also allow school districts in Missouri to discipline students for behavior that started off campus.
The bill defines cyberbullying as “bullying through the transmission of a communication including, but not limited to, a message, text, sound, or image by means of an electronic device, including, but not limited to, a telephone, wireless telephone, or other wireless communication device, computer, or pager.”
The Cyberbullying Research Institute has compiled a number of studies on the issue.
According to its research, “Cyberbullying is related to low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, anger, frustration, and a variety of other emotional and psychological problems...it is related to other issues in the ‘real world’ including school problems, anti-social behavior, substance use, and delinquency.”
Otto Fajen is the legislative director for the Missouri National Education Association and said there are ways to help your kids respond to cyberbullying, but communication is key.
“Take it seriously if there’s something,” Fajen said. “Make sure you have that communication. Find out if it's that they found out they didn’t do well on the test, or they're frustrated because somebody they like isn’t talking to them, or is there something else?”
In some cases cyberbullying has led teens to commit suicide.
According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death among persons aged 10-14 and the second leading cause among persons aged 15-34.
Rep. English said, “We want to make sure that we stop any chances of teenage suicide, any chance of cyberbullying to happen even on a little scale to a grand scale. The amount of teenage suicide has to stop and we have to do everything we can as a legislative body to give the school district a tool to stop it.”