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Volusia County School Board expands bullying policy
By Al Everson
posted Aug 21, 2013 - 9:15:32am
Just in time for the start of the new school year, the Volusia County School Board has broadened its policy on bullying to deter students or staffers from using computers or other electronic devices to threaten, harass, demean or annoy.
Bullying was already forbidden; the new provision prohibits cyberbullying.
Without objection, the School Board Aug. 13 approved an emergency rule that will be in effect for 90 days. A permanent amendment of the bullying policy must be advertised before the School Board takes final action.
"This was something the state required us to do," School Board Director of Community Information Nancy Wait said.
A bill passed by the Florida Legislature and now in effect prohibits students and those who work in the public schools, including volunteers, from using cyberspace to cause distress to others in the school setting.
"The primary effect of the legislation is to broaden the jurisdiction," Mike Dyer, the school district's chief counsel, told the School Board.
The policy addition says cyberbullying "includes, but is not limited to, any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic system, photoelectronic system, or photooptical system, including, but not limited to, electronic mail, Internet communications, instant messages, or facsimile communications."
Bullies may not create a Web page or a blog targeting a student or school employee and then attempt to hide behind a false identity.
The timeliness of the policy was not lost on the School Board.
"If somebody puts something on Facebook or tweets something like Carlos Danger, does this give us standing?" Board Member Candace Lankford asked.
Carlos Danger was the alias used by former New York U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner in sending obscene photos of himself to others.
Dyer reiterated the standard of "substantial interference" with a victim's life or the education process.
The School Board's bullying policy provides penalties or sanctions for violators. Students who violate the rules may face in-school suspension or possible expulsion. The policy is somewhat vague in terms of what awaits school employees who engage in cyberbullying.
"Consequences and appropriate interventions for a school/dislrict employee found to have committed an act of bullying or harassment or to have wrongfully and intentionally accused another of an act of bullying or harassment will be instituted in accordance with District policies, procedures, and [collective-bargaining] agreements," the policy states.
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