Students today use multiple electronic digital devices which provide multiple means of communicating with each other and multiple avenues of access to the worldwide Internet. While these devices can and should be used as positive tools in educational and other settings, unfortunately, these devices are also sometimes used in very unsafe and irresponsible ways. When students resort to bullying and harassment via the Internet and other electronic communication devices, these behaviors are called "cyberbullying."
Cyberbullying and cyberharassment are now explicitly included in Vermont's statutory definitions of bullying and harassment. When a school can establish a clear link between any off-campus internet activities and on-campus impacts (on a school-wide level or on individual students), schools can and must follow the procedures for investigating and responding to incidents of cyberbullying and cyberharassment as established in their bullying and harassment policies. As of 2010, at least 35 states have adopted some form of legislation to address the phenomena of cyberbullying. Please see the summary of enacted state statutes available on the National Conference of State Legislatures' website: http://www.ncsl.org/programs/educ/cyberbullying.htm
2009 Legislative Study Committee Report on Harassment, Bullying, and Cyberbullying in Vermont Schools
The committee assessed the current state of efforts to address the destructive impact of harassment, bullying and cyberbullying; examined laws in other jurisdictions and carefully reviewed enactments to Vermont statutes to date; and proposed a limited revision of state law (Appendix 3) to provide clear authority to allow educators to address off-campus behaviors that negatively impact the educational opportunities of students who are the targets of harassment, bullying or cyberbullying.
Embrace Civility in the Digital Age
Nancy Willard is the director of Embrace Civility in the Digital Age and a recognized authority on issues related to the safe and responsible use of the Internet. Ms. Willard has written several books and numerous articles about cyberbullying. One of her most recent books, Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social Aggression, Threats, and Distress provides a great deal of helpful information about the phenomenon of cyberbullying, including who is involved in this kind of behavior, the additional risky behaviors associated with cyberbullying, legal issues related to cyberbullying, and recommendations for schools about how to address and respond to cyberbullying. The appendices (see list below) for Ms. Willard's book can be downloaded at the Embrace Civility in the Digital Age website at http://www.embracecivility.org/.
In addition, Ms. Willard provides additional informational documents on her website related to legislation, case law, and school policies
Cyberbullying Research Center
Another excellent entity with helpful information and resources about cyberbullying is the Cyberbullying Research Center run by Dr. Sameer Hinduja and Dr. Justin Patchin. Sameer is an Associate Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University and Justin is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Both have given presentations at schools in Vermont. Their website, http://cyberbullying.us/, contains excellent resources for teens, parents, and educators as well as research and publications.
Unfortunately, there are few curricular resources available that address cyberbullying. However, at least one school system, one organization, and one individual have begun to develop this much-needed kind of resource. While the Human Rights Commission is not in a position to provide an evaluation of any of these materials, we encourage school staff to review the following resources for possible use in the classroom:
Mike Donlin, Linda Bakken, and Neilia Solberg have written a draft curriculum on cyberbullying for middle school students in the Seattle Public School system. This curriculum is available for use and comment at the Seattle Public School website: http://district.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=216981
The Anit-Defamation League (ADL) has developed lesson plans for elementary, middle, and secondary school students (as well as a list of resources) available on their website: http://www.adl.org/education/curriculum_connections/cyberbullying/ The ADL also provides workshops for students, administrators, and parents about cyberbullying. See their website for more details: http://www.adl.org/education/cyberbullying/workshops.asp
Susan P. Limber, director of the Center on Youth Participation and Human Rights and professor of psychology at Clemson University, has published two cyberbullying curricula for grades 3-5 and grades 6-12 that are available from Hazelden: http://www.hazelden.org/OA_HTML/ibeCCtpItmDspRte.jsp?section=null&item=13244, http://www.hazelden.org/OA_HTML/ibeCCtpItmDspRte.jsp?section=null&item=12188.