When I was growing up, students bullied each other by publicly assailing them, attacking their classmates' looks, their clothing, their intelligence, their social status, their religious affiliation. They sought to instill the fear of God with religious prophecy, leaving literature in their lockers, assuring them that they were damned to hell. They pushed them into bathroom stalls, rolled pennies at their feet, and sketched hate-laden symbols on the doors of their lockers. I know this because I was a sometimes silent, sometimes animated recipient of such bullying. I know this as a former teacher - and as someone who today advocates for the interests of children.
Technological advances have provided children with yet another medium through which to intimidate – cyberbullying. Local schools, state legislators, courts across the nation, and the federal government have been searching for ways to arrest cyberbulling and foster safer school environments, while not infringing upon the students’ right to privacy and free speech.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has developed a Model Cyberbulling Prevention Law which requires school districts to adopt a sweeping and sustainable anti-bullying policy, one that gives schools the resources they need to effectively combat and appropriately respond to bullying, including bullying motivated by race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other personal characteristics. The Model Statute provides an all-inclusive definition of cyberbullying and outlines notice requirements and mandatory training for students, parents and teachers.
Thirty years ago, the ADL developed a model hate crimes bill. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have since passed hate crime legislation, many of which were based on ADL's model. The hope is that ADL's Model Cyberbullying Prevention Statute will spawn a nationwide response and far-reaching bullying prevention legislation that might help put an end to childhood bullying and arrrest a childhood menace that has impeded learning, created hostile school environments, and adversely impacted the health of our children.
ADL's Model Cyberbulling Prevention Statute can be found at http://www.adl.org/civil_rights/Model_Cyberbullying_law%20_3.pdf.
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