Thursday, September 29, 2011 The tragic death of Jamey Rodemeyer in Buffalo has sent shivers across the state including Long Island. The 14-year-old boy took his own life this month after enduring years of bullying because he was gay. The suicide occurred just 11 days after Jamey posted a video online in which he told other victims of bullying, "I promise you it will get better."
That video is now on YouTube and has been viewed by more than a million people. It serves as a chilling reminder that bullying is a real problem that can have devastating effects.
Throughout Nassau County school administrations and teachers are searching for ways to deal effectively with bullying. For years local schools have had policies that deal with traditional bullying. Physical and verbal abuse on the school grounds is not tolerated and can lead to the bully being suspended or expelled.
But a new form of bullying called "cyber-bullying" often goes unnoticed by school officials and is much more difficult to deal with. In the age of social networking the cyber-bully can easily hide. The cyber-bully, male or female, can use Facebook or Twitter to destroy a person's reputation. For the victim it can be far more devastating than getting beaten up or mocked in the lunchroom.
To its credit the Great Neck Board of Education is updating its anti-bullying policy to include cyber-bullying and sexting. Sexting is defined as "the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones." Within hours a sexting photograph or message can be forwarded to hundreds of people.
The new policy "formalizes what has always been our philosophy: that we do not tolerate these behaviors," said Great Neck Board of Education Vice President Fran Langsner.
The district's policy will ban "any written, verbal, or electronic communication or physical act which actually or perceives to intimidate, threaten, or harm another." The policy even bans this behavior if it takes place "off-campus" if the victim is a student.
There may be legal problems in extending the school policy to activities that take place off-campus. It is also difficult without an expensive investigation to determine where the cyber-bulling originates. The cyber-bullies enjoy anonymity.
The challenge for all schools is to identify the victims of bullying, whether it's traditional or cyber, and keep them from becoming the next Jamey Rodemeyer. At the same time the schools also need to reach out to the bullies. The bullies need to understand the pain that victims experience and the reasons why they engage in this behavior. They must also understand that getting caught bullying someone can have serious consequences.
This is a battle that will not be easily one, but the Great Neck schools are moving in the right direction.
A Blank Slate Media Editorial
Check out the following resources to learn more about preventing cyber bullying:
Philadelphia Inquirer Article and Resources
- The National Crime Prevention Counsel provides information about stopping cyber bullying before it starts.
- MySpace Safety is a great article that discusses this popular cyber teen hangout.
- Stop Cyber Bullying provides information about why some people cyber bully, and how to stop yourself from cyber bullying.
- Wired Safety gives information about what to do if you are cyber bullied.
- Stop Bullying Now has information about what you can do to stop bullying of all kinds.