Social Media Bullying Addressed

The Lacey Board of Education addressed bullying at a recent meeting. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

LACEY – Social media made up the bulk of an increase in bad behavior that was monitored by the district’s latest report of harassment, intimidation, and bullying, officials said.

Districts are required to record instances of harassment, intimidation, and bullying and then report them in a HIB report twice a year.

The period was from Jan. 1 to June 30 of 2017. Each school is measured, and compared to the same time period last year.

  • Cedar Creek: One investigation, one confirmed. This is a decrease from last year’s three investigations, two confirmed.
  • Forked River: No investigations. This was the same as last year.
  • Lanoka Harbor: Three investigations, one confirmed. This is an increase from last year’s zero.
  • Mill Pond: 17 investigations, seven confirmed. This was an increase from last year’s three investigations, three confirmed.
  • Middle School: 14 investigations, 13 confirmed. This is an increase from last year’s seven investigations, three confirmed.
  • High School: Two investigations, one confirmed. This is a decrease from last year’s five investigations, three confirmed.

According to the state statute, the definition of harassment, intimidation, and bullying are not just one child picking on another. A child has to be picked on because of a certain trait for it to be put in this report. Those traits are things like their gender, race, sexual orientation, or disability, for example.

The largest increase was at Mill Pond. The students there are in the fifth through eighth grade. As a result, they are more active on social media, without, perhaps, parent supervision, assistant superintendent Vanessa Clark said.

Students are being reinforced that their online behavior affects others, Superintendent Craig Wigley said.

“Words are hurtful. Cyber bullying is hurtful. Keyboard courage is hurtful,” he said.

“When the term ‘bully’ is used, we go into action immediately,” he said.

The incident is investigated. Sometimes they are unsubstantiated. Sometimes they are mislabeled. It is not bullying if two people just don’t get along, Clark said.

Students are taught that there is a difference between intent and impact. “I didn’t mean it” doesn’t hold as much water, she said. It’s more about the impact that hurtful language has on students.

A survey called the Comprehensive School Climate Inventory will be sent to parents, students, and staff to learn more about HIB in Lacey schools, she said. The district will then use that data to guide improvements.

Meanwhile, parent workshops will be presented and staff will be given additional training on handling HIB. “It never hurts to go through a refresher course,” she said.

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Chris Lundy is News Editor at Micromedia. He has covered Ocean County news and features in various publications since 2003. Lundy worked for Gannett with articles in The Beacon, Observer and Asbury Park Press. He's also written for the Community Connection, Patch and ShoreBeat.