You should read the whole thing because I'm going to read between the lines.
As the article explained: "Maine’s anti-bullying law requires school administrators to annually report instances of bullying, cyberbullying, hazing or bias-based harassment motivated by race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, gender, or any of a long list of characteristics or perceived characteristics.
The Education Department also developed a model policy for schools and required all Maine schools to develop similar policies to deal with bullying, harassment and sexual harassment."
So how did schools do over the last three years?
From the first infograph below, it appears that the majority of schools may not have seriously complied with the law and reporting requirements until 2015--at least that's what the notes suggest. And just 87 of Maine’s 620 public schools reported at least one instance of bullying, hazing or harassment to the state. Not counting Maine's private schools, that means less than 10% of schools have reported a cyberbullying incident.
The BDN reporter spoke to Rep. Terry Morrison, D-South Portland, who sponsored Maine’s anti-bullying legislation. In the article Morrison said he’s disappointed with the lack of follow-through on the responsibilities outlined in the law.
“We left it up to the department to manage themselves,” said Morrison in the article. “Before we jump the gun and blame them for not caring, we should figure out what … is behind it, and then ask, ‘How can I help you get the tools to succeed?’”
When reporting a cyberbullying incident, the form doesn't ask for race, religion or gender. Further, Maine does not analyze the bullying reports, according to Anne Gabbianelli, director of communications for the Education Department who was interviewed by the BDN.
What an astounding missed opportunity this is and exactly what would have been needed, as Morrison stated for schools "to get the tools you need to succeed." In order to get to the root of bullying and cyberbullying, you need to understand what tactics are being used.
Schools are supposed to report all bullying and cyberbullying incidents, but the law leaves it up to the schools to interpret what constitutes bullying or cyberbullying. What if the administration don't know what cyberbullying actually is? Most of the schools I visited in 2012-2013 in Maine to do cyberbullying presentations had a very rudimentary understanding of the nuances of cyberbullying. (I actually learned of one Maine middle school that tried to punish a child for using her friend's password classifying it as "cyberbullying"--which it clearly wasn't.)
While some of the schools I visited are firmly on board with a policy, reporting and training, I can safely say with the majority of schools, there is still a lack of awareness on this issue.
This is the state that led the nation with our 1:1 laptop movement for all middle and high school students. I've spoken to so many parents, teachers, counselors and school nurses who deal with this every day and they are frustrated. A school cannot fix its cyberbullying problem if it doesn't even use the tools it's required to implement.
Let's see what 2016 holds. If you need me to come to your school and deliver a presentation to the administration and a working plan to address cyberbullying, I will bring your administration up to speed on what they need to have in place and then I'll leave you with the right tools (and presentations for kids) that will allow you to take control of this issue in a strategic way.
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