Monday, May 23, 2011

Cyber-bullying... a teacher?

Here's an interesting issue:

Student Suspended for Facebook Post

A thirteen-year-old posted a Facebook status which indicated that she wished Bin Laden had killed [her teacher] instead of the 3,000 people in the twin towers.  Yikes.  Dr. Drew  -- (why him and what are his credentials exactly?  I must admit, I am a bit skeptical of any doctor who goes by "Doctor FirstName" and has TV shows on MTV.  I digress) -- Dr. Drew interviews the mom & kid and brings in a "former prosecutor" to comment on some of the legal aspects.  The prosecutor makes a point (4:00) that with issues of cyber bullying, the law right now sums up 'net issues as such: "we don't care where the bad behavior happened, we care where the bad effects land."  So, if it is going to influence the school community, then yes, the school has a right to step in.  I thought that was an interesting and seemingly fair rule.  Does the law need to evolve with the internet?  Yes, certainly, it is not perfect -- it would be nice if laws provided schools with more clear-cut and decisive action plans, but that has not yet happened.

But about 4 minutes later (8:00), the girl dissolves into waterworks, and suddenly the tune seems to change.  Now, she is the victim (Dr. Drew actually makes a statement to that effect at 10:18)! The girl tearfully defends herself saying that we can't judge her because we don't know the whole situation, and to some extent, I agree.  But from the change of tune at 8 minutes to the end of the clip, the interview takes a decidedly anti-school/anti-teacher sentiment.  No, a national news network is not the place to rub her nose in her poor choice, but still...she was the bully here!  The prosecutor changes her tune as well, rehashing issues of cyber-bullying where the school did not step in and the dire consequences thereof (10:55).  She says "Schools need to get it together" and to some extent, I agree.   Simultaneously, however, I just shake my head, wondering how much more society wants to heap on schools' plates.  When schools say they can't intervene because of free speech, they get harassed.  When schools do intervene, however, they get harassed for being too heavy-handed.  What do you want them to do?

As the clip ended, I was still just astounded at the unfairness for the teacher.  If that were a statement made by one child against another, it would be included as bullying in any pursued legal case.  So just because the teacher is an adult, it's not a big deal?  Is it really outrageous for a principal to attempt to protect his/her teachers?  Teachers aren't above the law -- we aren't saints by any means -- but at least treat us with the same dignity you would a threatened student!  The phrase may not have been a "threat" per se, but it was hateful and hurtful, which sounds a lot like bullying to me.


  1. If the threat had been more direct: "My teacher needs to die" or somesuch, I think that the situation would be more clear cut. I know that I might be deeply hurt that a student might say that about me, but I don't know if the situation might make me feel actually threatened.

    I wish we could have heard from the teacher -- the victim's voice is important, if only to show the girl that words have an effect on people.

    I think 'suspended pending an investigation' would have been the appropriate thing.

    My husband, an AP, says (roughly) this, "They have no idea what it means to live in a world where you could think things and not say them. Now, the culture is 'think it' = 'say it'. They don't know any different. We do."

    She should have been suspended. I'm glad they did.

    My two cents.

  2. You are right -- whether or not you can call it a "threat" is actually unclear. Hateful and hurtful? Absolutely. But a threat -- well, probably not.

    I think part of my frustration with the clip is exactly what you brought up: we didn't hear from the teacher.

    Your husband has a wise observation! I've often noticed that, especially in female students. They think "being real" is saying whatever crosses your mind, which is often just plain rude.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels like some kind of consequence from the school was appropriate!