With updates to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) going into effect on July 1, school districts across the country are making changes to cyber bullying guidelines and curriculums.
“As a district we’ve certainly tried to expand the awareness with our parents in regards to cyber bullying,” says Peoria school district Superintendent Dr. Denton Santarelli in Arizona. Dr. Santarelli says his district is also incorporating cyber bullying education into its internet safety week program which is in its second year.
“We’re bringing teachers up to date with the kinds of things that are occurring, making changes to the curriculum and having ongoing meetings with parent leadership groups,” he says.
The Peoria school district is also surveying students regarding their attitudes to cyber bullying. “Student perception provides good data for us,” Dr. Santarelli says. “There’s also a hotline students can call and a text messaging program with the Peoria city police department they can utilize if they’re being harassed, threatened or bullied.”
In Texas, which is 38 percent Latino, school districts are dealing with the intersection of putting technology in the hands of students and protecting students from inappropriate content. In the Commerce school district, certain content will be filtered as long as students are using the school’s Wi-Fi.
When using the internet from a school computer or their own iPad, students connected to the district server are limited from accessing certain sites like Youtube, according to the district’s technology director Al Shipp.
In Arizona, Dr. Santarelli agrees that the proper balance must be struck.
“We want to increase tech in the hands of students but also encourage responsible use, along with filtering capabilities,” he says, adding that a bond initiative will lead to wireless internet in the district in the Fall.
Dr. Reynol Junco, a professor at Loch Haven University, who studies the cross-section between education and technology, says cyber bullying has been added to CIPA because educators have not made it a priority before.
“It’s silly that this needed to be legislated,” he says. “We focus on all these skills such as how to create a word document, how to make a Powerpoint and learning apps but educators have been bad about teaching digital citizenship.”
Junco points to the blocking of sites like Youtube and social networks by schools as a bad sign.
“Districts are scared to have students use social media,” he says.
“It’s kind of like teaching abstinence. Really? This is not sex. This is the telephone in 2012.”