Friday, March 30, 2007

Stop Cyberbullying - My Story

Cyberbullying, is an electronic way for the bully to operate. Whether the action is true bullying, defined by the infliction of wilfull and repeated harm, or bully behaviour, actions that are bully like, without the repetition involved, it is wrong. And, we need to teach our students about this form of bully behaviour and the actions to take if they become the subjects of this type of behaviour.

Three years ago, when I was still a school principal, I was at a PAC meeting. Following the meeting I logged in to my school mail in order to send a note to the prinicipal of the high school regarding something our PAC wanted to do. There was new mail in my mailbox and the mail had come from two different accounts. It was filled with vile statements as well as threats to me of harm and wishes that I would die. Some of the messages suggested sexual comments and suggestions. Another horrible piece to this action was that my school secretary was copied. I was able to log in as her and open her mailbox to find a slew of messages, some that were the copies of my messages and others that were directed to her alone. I contacted the police and our district technology manager (the position I hold today).

Later that night and early the next morning, more messages were sent.

Because I have internet skills that go beyond reading and writing email, I knew where to look for information about who might have sent the message. Looking in the message headers, I could identify the IP addressess of the senders computers. The two ISPS involved were contacted. They promised to look in to the issue and see what they could do. In the meantime, I copied all the messges into a folder, on both our machines, and printed them out. I also talked with my secretary, telling her that there was some inappropriate mail on her desktop and not to view it.

Later in the afternoon, a husband and wife arrived at school and asked to see me. Once in my office, the dad broke into tears. He had been called by the ISP and told that his computer had been used to send hate mail. He was devastated and asked for my forgiveness. A half hour later, another mom came to see me, equally horrified that her son had been involved in this attack.

Working with the police, the boys were charged, but I agreed to holding a healing circle. All parties who were affected by the event, including my Superintendent as he knew how the event was affecting me in doing my job, came to the table for a meeting. The end result was that I proposed that rather than the students being suspended long term from the school, that they be required to take a three evening course, attended by their parents as well, to learn about internet safety and internet etiquette.
Though forgiven, the event is indellibly etched in my mind. It is one of the reasons why I do today what I do... talk to kids about cyberbullying and other forms of internet misuse.

Talks with the local police indicate that there is little in the way of abuse reported. Please encourage your children to report these kinds of abuses.

Cyberbullying must be slowed to a stop.

Image Credit: Flickr photo from Rich James -

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