Welcome to the fifth post of the blog mini-series: Distance Learning Safety Protocols for the Educator and the Student. This mini-series was created to address various safety aspects of distance learning, including grooming, signs of child abuse, student medical emergencies, cyberbullying, and managing the online classroom. These blog posts can be used to help school districts address potential risks. Check out the blog for other posts in the series.

While the 20/21 school year looks very different for many students and school district employees, districts are still obligated to adhere to existing policies and procedures during virtual instruction. California Education Code (Ed Code) 234.4 states that every local educational agency (LEA) shall adopt procedures to prevent acts of bullying, including cyberbullying. This Ed Code section was created to help increase awareness and understanding of the dynamics of bullying and cyberbullying in schools. While distance learning has lessened the physical bullying school districts see in hallways between classes or after school, it likely hasn't done the same for cyberbullying. School districts now have virtually every student online with the internet at their fingertips.

The following guidance should be considered to assist school districts  with strengthening  policies and preventing cyberbullying:

  • School districts should remind parents, school district employees, and students that their Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) still applies in distance learning situations. Existing AUPs may need to be amended to reflect any new roles and responsibilities of school district employees, parents, or students.
  • School district employees should continue to educate students about digital citizenship and convey vital skills such as communication, empathy, and self-control.  Education on how to treat each other in the virtual classroom can also be applied to any online environment.
  • School districts should work with school district employees to ensure students receive bullying prevention education to include cyberbullying, in an age-appropriate manner.
  • School districts should also clarify that those who engage in cyberbullying behaviors may be subject to formal discipline. Students need to understand that behavior off campus that disrupts the school environment or makes other students feel unsafe could be subject to disciplinary action.
  • School districts should provide resources to parents on how to identify and report cyberbullying.
  • If a school district employee is aware of cyberbullying, they should preserve any/all evidence and follow district protocols for reporting. There could be legal implications for the employee and/or district for not reporting.

Cyberbullying can cause damage to the online reputation of everyone involved, not just the victim. Often times when information is posted electronically, it becomes a permanent fixture on the web unless it is reported and removed. Cyberbullying can be persistent and even at times, hard to notice but there are also ways that school districts can prevent it. For further assistance, please don't hesitate to reach out to Risk Control.