JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- More and more, bullies are hiding in cyberspace. This year, new rules will keep bullies and their parents from hiding behind the internet.
Jaurvon Phipps is a high school student who has seen bullies tease, intimidate and humiliate far beyond the playground. They’re now using social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and leaving scars on their victims that last long after the school year begins.
“Bullying can occur anywhere. Anywhere there's kids bullying can happen. Just to see students come to school and go through that. It's sad.”
But this year, Florida’s school administrators have more power in the fight against bullying. During the last legislative session, state lawmakers updated the state policy to allow school districts to investigate cyber bullies, whether their attacks were performed on or off campus. If their action affects their victims’ productivity at school, they will be disciplined.
While the change puts pressure on school officials, Representative Janet H. Adkins isn’t worried they’ll become overwhelmed with the expected increase in complaints in the upcoming school year.
“The legislation just provides them an avenue to deal with what they're already aware of, so I'm confident they will rise to the challenge and do a great job.”
Interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart agrees, saying the change was necessary to keep up with developing technology.
“School is the great equalizer, so we can use the school as the opportunity to help our students and our family populations recognize the importance of anti bullying activities.”
Students like Phipps aren’t worried about school officials invading their privacy.
“I think it's something they should do. The bullies may not like it, but it has to come to an end. The bullying has to stop.”
The updated policy went into effect on July 1. It does not specify how school districts should discipline cyber bullies. The Florida Department of Education is reviewing what technologies are needed for school officials to investigate cyber bulling in the coming months.