Schools develop tactics to curtail cyberbullying

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part story about cyberbullying. The first part was in Saturday’s paper.

A new type of bullying has developed since the advent of the personal computer. Cyberbullying involves the use of computers to harass other people or students. Schools are developing tactics to eliminate cyberbullying on school campuses.

“MySpace.com is blocked on school computers,” said Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School media teacher Kevin Matsunaga.

MySpace is a Web platform where peole worldwide can make friends and communicate. It can also be a good venue for bullying.

Matsunaga said the DOE has a good filtering program, but it is not foolproof. There are “anonymous proxy sites” that would allow a student to type the MySpace.com address into a window and access the site, without any history showing that the MySpace.com site had been accessed.

Content filtering programs are manual, which means that someone has to manually type in sites that need to be blocked. “With the speed at which Web sites are created, it is hard to keep up,” Matsunaga said.

Students on occasion have been caught in prohibited areas, like pornographic sites, Matsunaga said.

When students first enroll at Chiefess, they and their parents sign an “Acceptable Use Policy.” The policy outlines the guidelines for Internet use and the consequences for breaking school policy. In addition, all sixth-grade students take a Health and Technology class in which they go over proper use of the computer.

Matsunaga said when they first crafted the policy in 2000, cyberbullying and use of sites like MySpace.com were not prevalent. He said they need to add those to the policy for next year.

Shibuya said MySpace.com has been the focus of investigations over the past couple months. They are investigating both predatory and harassment activities.

Matsunaga and Kuloloia said Cheifess and Kapaa middle schools depend on students reporting incidents of harassment and cyberbullying. According to the school officials, reports are relatively few.

Kuloloia said KMS utilizes the Positive Behavior Support system. KMS has a “Caught Being Good” program. Forms are filled out each time a student is seen doing something good. The forms are placed in a box and each month names are pulled for prizes. Prizes include food or donated gift certificates.

The “Caught Being Good” program is so popular that students are in the habit of recognizing each other, Kuloloia said.

A positive behavior team looks at office referrals and identifies high incident areas of problem behaviors. These behaviors are addressed at quarterly pod/grade level assemblies. Students are reminded of things they need to be doing.

“Teasing occurs quite often in the sixth grade,” Kuloloia said.

Students are reminded that teasing is a form of harassment. They are told if somebody feels badly about what somebody is saying, that’s harassment. Kuloloia said students are told that harassment is not about what is being said, but how it’s being received.

Kuloloia also stresses that harassment is harassment no matter what form it takes, even if it is cyberbullying. In such cases Chapter 19, a part of the Hawaii State Rules on Student Misconduct and Discipline, is followed. Consequences for such acts depend on the severity and frequency of the incident. Progressive discipline is applied which includes a warning, detention, suspension, and reporting to police.

Although students have been arrested for harassment, that behavior is not the biggest problem area. Kuloloia said classroom disruption is the biggest concern at KMS. Jane Nelsen, author and consultant of Positive Discipline in the Classroom will be presenting a workshop next school year, Kuloloia said.

Kuloloia said that students at Kapaa Middle School feel safe. “They report any harassment to the administration,” he said.

He said the vice principals encourage the students to make the reports and the administrators follow up and handle the problems.

KMS also has a peer mediation program that Kuloloia said students use to solve problems.

The DOE conducts a “School Quality Survey” every two years. The survey includes questions on student safety to which teachers, parents, and students respond. The survey is posted on the DOE Web site. Kuloloia said that the survey goes out to a limited number of people, so he questions its reliability and validity.

He feels that their high attendance rate is a better indicator that Kapaa provides a safe learning environment. “If students don’t feel safe, they don’t come to school,” Kuloloia said.

• Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer for The Garden Island and former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She can be reached by e-mail at aharju@kauaipubco.com

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