It was a quiet Friday night at our local bookstore. My kids were in the cafe with their laptops while I attended Nook Nite. When we left the store, my daughter told me that she had to show me her Facebook page when we got home. And, boy did she. Someone chatted with her and the messages were nasty. I am talking street corner, foul-mouthed, your-sailor-friend-would-blush nasty.
The cyber bully had used someone else’s account to chat my daughter. We promptly took a screen shot and sent it over to the school’s resource officer, principal and guidance counselor. My husband asked me to let him handle it. For those of you who know me well, this was extremely difficult for me.
My daughter avoided her Facebook account all weekend while I kept an eye on it, just in case. My daughter was sure it was not the girl she was already friends with.
Around lunchtime on Monday, we received a note back from the school’s resource officer saying that they had interviewed my daughter and reviewed the material we provided. Despite this information, the school administration said, “There is no school involvement. By that, there were no statements made at school or mention of something to happen at school.” They suggested we keep the message and contact the police. This answer is a non answer, so we pushed back.
Apparently, the administration was unaware that I work for 28,000 corporate lawyers. I read and comprehend legal articles, contracts, policies and handbooks extremely well. I sent the student code of conduct over to my husband pointing out page five and referencing the section on cyber bullying. Once he read the section, he then contacted the school again letting the resource officer know that his wife works with 100 lawyers (ok, given my social media contacts, that number is not nearly high enough, but my office really has about 10 lawyers on staff). He then said that my lawyers reviewed the cyber bullying section of the student code of conduct and would ask that the school review the section again because it has just cause to continue to investigate this case. Here is what they found:
The girl who was Facebook friends with my daughter did not write the messages. She had a friend over at her house who was on her computer and account without her knowing. She let the school know who the child was. The cyber bully had used a fake name in her message to my daughter. My poor child spent all weekend trying to place this girl, wondering how she knew her.
Cyber bullying is something that no other generation had to grow up with or parent. Parents need a better arsenal if they are going to be prepared for this.
- Make sure your child can tell you anything. Although I monitor my children’s online accounts, I am not on them daily. This chat could have been easily overlooked if my daughter had not alerted me.
- Do not hesitate to contact school authorities and push for resolution. Schools will most likely take the path of least resistance. Don’t take it personally. They have thousands of kids to handle. But remember that you are your child’s advocate.
- Make sure school authorities contact the parents or guardian. So what if the child gets “sent to the office.” Make sure an adult in their life is contacted. Sometimes this is all it takes to stop a child’s destructive behavior, especially when they are younger and can still be influenced by their parents or guardians.
- Push your state to create anti-bullying laws to protect children. In our community, we could not even file a police report. Why? Because we do not have any anti-bullying laws. But make sure the laws actually have teeth to them. The local police told my husband and daughter there was nothing they could do because this was not under their jurisdiction.