Missouri schools take on cyber bullying with new law

In recent years, school districts across the country have zeroed in on bullying. Now, a new Missouri law is pushing that effort off campus, placing schools in the midst of the gray area on how to handle the online activities of their students, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The statute, which goes into effect Aug. 27, requires school districts to put the terms “cyber bullying” and “electronic communications” into their anti-bullying policies, which have been required since 2007. Advocates hope the measure will help districts focus on behavior that many say is growing more prevalent and can be more harmful than traditional bullying. Some districts that have drafted such policies say changes have made a difference. But some lawyers say adding the phrases required under the new law won’t legally change anything. “All this statute did was add a couple of words to it to just make sure that schools were covering it,” said Robert Useted, an attorney for five school districts in St. Louis County. “It has been my experience that most school districts already had a policy dealing with electronic bullying.” The Lindbergh school district, which added the term “cyber bullying” to its discipline policies a couple years ago, says problems with online bullying have decreased since the change. But deciding when schools can discipline for online bullying is something he and other educators are still grappling with…

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