Minnesota’s New Bullying Law and the Ability of Educators to Respond to Off-Campus Bullying

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on April 18, 2014

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On April 9th Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed into law the “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act” which, among other things, updates the state’s anti-bullying legislation. The previous version of the law, last updated in 2007, was much maligned as being among the “worst in the nation.” I’m not sure that designation is accurate, but it was by far the shortest bullying law in the U.S. at just 37 words in length. The new law is much more comprehensive, which had also led to attracting its share of critics.

Some argue that it is an attack on local control or that it somehow challenges the ability of parents to respond to bullying in a way that they think is appropriate. Others say it threatens free speech. Still others argue that this is just another unfunded mandate for schools, and to that I say, fair enough. I (read more…)

Anonymous Postings on Confession Pages, Secret, and Whisper

Posted by Sameer Hinduja on April 11, 2014

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What many adults don’t understand, they freak out about. Especially as it relates to teens. I’m generalizing here, but you know what I mean – we really don’t want the youth we care for to be having secrets, telling secrets, and keeping secrets away from us. Because we don’t fully trust them, either due to past experiences or due to messages from current events and the popular media. Well, in this environment we have seen the increasing popularity and notoriety of online mediums and platforms over which teens (and adults) can anonymously say whatever they want to those around them (see Justin’s post on Yik Yak) or to a larger social grouping. And it’s worth taking some time to discuss these, so that we know fact from fiction and don’t overreact.

To begin, Confessions sites on social media have received some attention in the press over the last (read more…)

Ban School, Open Facebook

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on March 24, 2014

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There is much consternation among parents and educators alike about the perceived criminogenic nature of social networking websites. Despite some evidence that its popularity among some teens is beginning to wane, Facebook is still the most prominent figure in this space. As such, it tends to receive the brunt of the blows, with fervent calls from well-meaning adults to ban teen access to the site, and others like it. Recall one principal’s plea to parents over three years ago: “There is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! None.” To be sure, there are plenty of good reasons to limit time on social media, especially for younger Internet users. But when it comes to bullying behaviors specifically, the evidence is clear that the school is a much more “dangerous” place to hang out than Facebook. Bullying vs. (read more…)

Yik Yak

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on March 7, 2014

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There is a new cell phone application that is gaining notoriety at the speed of light among some groups of teens (as well as their teachers and parents). In essence, Yik Yak is pretty much a location-based anonymous Twitter feed. The free app allows users to post anonymous comments that can be viewed by anyone who is within 5 miles of the person who posted it. Or at least the 500 who are the closest. When installing the app, the user gets a warning message stating that the app contains mature material and is therefore only appropriate for users 17 and older. But that hasn’t stopped high school students in some cities from signing up in droves. One can easily see the attraction for students in using this app: they can post nameless comments that others in their immediate vicinity can see. As such, it is perfectly tailored for a (read more…)

Restorative Group Conferencing and Sexting: Repairing Harm in Wright County

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on March 4, 2014

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Nancy Riestenberg, who works for the Minnesota Department of Education. In it, she discusses an innovative approach used to address the harm that results from sexting images that are distributed beyond the originally intended recipient. Nancy Riestenberg School Climate Specialist, Minnesota Department of Education Three years ago, in a middle school in Wright County, Minnesota, students discovered sexually explicit pictures of a student on the cell phone of her boyfriend.  The students ran to the bathroom with the cell phone and sent the pictures on to eight other students.  By the time the adults in the school discovered them, many student cell phones had received the pictures. The administration asked the school resource officer from the Sheriff’s Office to investigate.  Potentially many students could be charged with sending or receiving sexually explicit pictures of a minor, a felony offense.  What was (read more…)

Deterring Teen Bullying: Dos and Don’ts

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on February 21, 2014

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There’s been a lot of interest lately in passing new bullying and cyberbullying laws. The pressure to pursue these provisions seems to come from the idea that the threat of harsher penalties will deter teens from bullying others. But will they? Deterrence theory is a very popular philosophy within the criminal justice system, and as such serves as the basis for many policies (e.g., mandatory sentences and “three strikes” laws). The basic premise is simple: humans are rational beings who weigh the costs and benefits of any behavior and will ultimately act in a way that maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain. Rational people will therefore be more likely to refrain from deviance when the costs (severe punishment) are increased.

The problem with this perspective is that adolescent brains haven’t yet fully developed to the point where we can assume rationality in the face of unknown or unlikely consequences. (read more…)

Parenting Kids Today to Prevent Adult Bullying Tomorrow: Lessons from the Miami Dolphins bullying case

Posted by Sameer Hinduja on February 14, 2014

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The independent investigation report into the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal was released today.  I blogged about this story a couple of times last November because it really hit me deeply, because we care so much about the bullying problem, and because I’ve published a few academic articles on workplace harassment.  I have previously discussed in detail the implications for society stemming from the situation, and also how the relevant institutions may have contributed to the problem.

The new report is pretty eye-opening. Here are the take-home points:

“The Report concludes that three starters on the Dolphins offensive line, Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey, engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Jonathan Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer. The Report finds that the assistant trainer repeatedly was the object of racial slurs and (read more…)

Unplug for a While!

Posted by Sameer Hinduja on February 6, 2014

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Many of us have become so dependent on technology, we don’t know what to do with ourselves without our favorite devices.  It’s almost sad (for me, at least) to consider how we don’t know what to do with ourselves if we can’t take out our phone at any moment to check our Instagram feed, or Twitter followers, or Facebook notifications.  And how we really need people to be reaching out to us and so we are constantly texting and Snapchatting to keep from feeling alone. And how all of this has become deeply tied into our emotional and psychological well-being – how we feel about ourselves and our worth and our importance to others. Some are realizing that this dependence on nonstop online connectivity may be unhealthy for them, and may be compromising certain areas of their lives – such as their ability to study and focus (read more…)

Law Enforcement Involvement in Bullying Incidents: Different Rules and Roles

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on January 28, 2014

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Last week I posted about a situation where a student was suspended for his involvement in a fight in which video evidence showed that he did not participate in a way that warranted the punishment. In fact, from all available evidence, he did exactly the right thing to do: he walked away. Another aspect of that case that generated public scorn was the reported unprofessional treatment that the student received from the police officer assigned to the school. The student was evidently told by the officer that he should “bulk up” as a way to avoid being pushed around in the future. This got me to thinking a bit about the role of law enforcement officers in the schools.

Recent data are hard to come by, but thousands of officers work in schools every day across the United States. They are mostly responsible for the safety and security of (read more…)

Video Evidence of Bullying: Implications for Effective Response

Posted by Justin W. Patchin on January 24, 2014

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A new video has surfaced showing a bullying incident in Rancho Cucamonga, California. The video shows 14-year-old high school freshman Kobe Nelson being pushed around by a classmate while a throng of onlookers heckle and encourage the two to fight. Several of the students can be seen recording the situation on their cell phones. It appears from the video that Kobe is simply trying to walk away, but the aggressor keeps pulling him back into the fray. Eventually Kobe is able to escape, but is later contacted by a police officer assigned to the school who inquires about the fight. He was taken to the office where he was informed that he was being suspended for two days for fighting. Presumably the other student involved was also suspended, but his sanction has not been discussed publicly. There is sadly nothing all that special or unique about (read more…)

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