Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Saturday, May 19, 2007
House unanimous for squelching 'cyberbullies'
SALEM -- The Oregon House wants the state's schoolchildren to stop bullying each other electronically.
Taking on a distinctly 21st-century issue, the House voted 56-0 on Monday to require Oregon school districts to adopt policies prohibiting "cyberbullying," which it defined as "the use of any electronic device to harass, intimidate or bully."
The measure, House Bill 2637, amended an existing law that requires school policies outlawing more traditional forms of bullying.
The unanimous House passage of the bill reflects lawmakers' concern over how young people are using a growing array of electronic communication -- e-mail, text messaging and instant messaging, plus Web sites like MySpace and YouTube where they can post messages and videos.
"It's another tool to communicate and in some cases they don't use good judgment in communicating," said Kent Hunsaker, executive director of the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators.
The Washington Legislature recently passed a similar measure, which Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to sign.
Neither law would apply to cyberbullying done at home. The Oregon bill refers to bullying acts "that take place on or immediately adjacent to school grounds, at any school-sponsored activity, on school-provided transportation or at any official school bus stop.
Noting that school administrators can't regulate students' use of electronic devices at home, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Cedar Mill, called the bill "just a small step." She said school districts should be encouraged to teach students "about the responsible use of the Internet."
Rep. Betty Komp, D-Woodburn, said the growing use of the Internet means that students can be harassed in numerous electronic ways "and it's just as harmful as person-to-person bullying."
"Some of us just can't keep up with it," she added.
The Legislature passed the original anti-bullying measure in 2001. Chuck Bennett, a lobbyist for the school administrators group, said interest in that legislation was strong but was less so for the bill adding cyberbullying to the list of outlawed practices.
Hunsaker said, "With the spread of the Internet, it is another thing that school administrators are dealing with. It comes up often. Everybody has their MySpace."
Both Bennett and Hunsaker said the 2001 law directing school districts to adopt policies against traditional forms of bullying appeared to have been effective.
"I think school districts take this stuff pretty seriously," Hunsaker said. "It's one thing parents feel strongly about. They want their kids to go to school and feel safe."
Edward Walsh: 503-294-4153; firstname.lastname@example.org
"This is VERY difficult to watch. Maybe you saw it on TV already. "To Catch A Predator" will shock you. Hopefully it will also scare you into talking with your kids about online safety. Maybe you should watch this WITH your kids.
The page is full of stories and videos of the confrontations they had with the ... "suspects." Start on the right side in the "As Seen on the Broadcast." Then check out those other links - if you can. Make SURE you watch The Legal Fallout section."