Tuesday, January 19, 2010

NH Proposes Amending Law to Include Cyberbullying

This is one of those posts where I have to point out that I'm not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV, but it's not going to stop me from putting my opinion out there.

NH House Bill 1523 is designed to provide schools with clout to enforce the state's Public Safety and Violence Prevention Act.

It adds definitions for bullying and cyberbullying and requires schools to set policies and procedures for dealing with it. It also mandates training for staff and the involvement of pupils, parents, administrators, school staff, school volunteers, community representatives, and local law enforcement agencies in the process of developing the policy.

Overall, I think the law will do a good job of addressing the issue. There are some provisions that I really like, and two items that cause me a bit concern.

Having community involvement in the development of policy is an good idea and the inclusion of students in the process even better.

I also love the idea that the law puts the emphasis on staff training, rather than requiring specific curriculum. My stance on this is well documented. Cybersafety and cyberbullying are part of online citizenship which should be naturally infused throughout the cults schools that do what they should be doing, but doesn't prevent parents from suing if policy and procedures are not followed. To many schools make a show of creating policy and then ignore them.

The first thing that concerns me is the requirement of the schools to report incidents to the state. This wouldn't be a bad idea if the state was providing resources, training, and funds to help support the goals of the law, but with out that, it is nothing but additional paperwork and liability placed on already overburdened school.

The next thing gives me concern is the definition that includes a one time incident. It appears to be to be an attempt to deal with incidents like the Megan Meier case, but this will become a rallying point for free speech advocates and possibly a basis for a Constitutional challenge.

Leaving it out wouldn't preclude acting against a single incident. I think the law has enough in it to allow following up on that kind of case. While excluding it wouldn't preclude following up on a single incident that is severe enough, it lessens the likelihood of abusing the law and raising the wrath of free speech organizations.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Education and legislation go hand in hand. One must inform and help the other.

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posted by Art @ 11:17 AM   0 comments


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