BWHS Student Council leads effort against cyber-bullying
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
Four Big Walnut High School Student Council members attended the November Big Walnut Local School District Board of Education meeting to give a presentation on students partnering with the school district to address cyber-bullying
The four students — Nicole Meyer, Avery Kerns, Lindsey Adams and Caeilen Lozano – said student council members and other students were creating high school, middle school, intermediate school and elementary school presentations outlining the Jessica Logan act, a new Ohio law designed to help prevent cyber-bullying using social media.
Under mandates of the Jessica Logan Act, educators are responsible for investigating and prosecuting complaints (including anonymous reports) of cyber-bullying, even if the material was created on the student’s own time, away from school groups and apart from any school-sanctioned activity. This would include emails, postings on Facebook and other social networks.
Throughout the school day last Tuesday (December 18), during eight sessions small groups of students assembled in the high school auditorium for a brief presentation that included a video about Cincinnati teenager Jessica Logan, who committed suicide in 2008 because of cyber-bullying.
School district assistant superintendent Gary Barber said the presentations were a 100 percent student council designed and led effort.
“We presented the issue to the high school’s student council; we told them this is what the law is asking us to do,” Barber explained. “They broke up into three groups for the high school, middle and intermediate schools, and an elementary group. All three groups came up with different presentations. They came up with the concepts, designed the scripts, created the content, and then they presented it to the principals and got a thumbs-up from them.
Barber said to keep presentations age appropriate and meaningful, elementary school content would be geared for Kindergarten through Grade 1, grades 2 and 3, and Grade 4, with an emphasis on topics like name-calling and other anti-social behaviors that lead to bullying as students grow older. The intermediate school, middle school and high school presentations address student’s anti-social behaviors on social media.
During last Tuesday’s high school presentations, Adams, who serves as Student Council President, said the Jessica Logan Act is not some new way for district and school building administrators to interfere with student’s social lives; that it’s a law put in place to protect students from cyber-bullying.
“In today’s world we don’t just communicate face to face, but through technology,” Adams said. “We use texting, Twitter, and YouTube to keep up with the world around us. These things help us in a positive way and have revolutionized the way we interact, but at times they can do more harm than good.”
Adams said many of today’s students are aware of the dangers and implications of their actions on social media networks, where even casual remarks can be misconstrued and misrepresented.
During one early afternoon session, Adams, Chase LaVeer and Emi Malik had students do a survey via socrative.com using their own devices – a.k.a. smart phones – with results tabulated online and projected on the auditorium screen in real time.
The online survey determined that in one audience alone 55 students with smart devices able to log on and participate in the survey had a Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram account or text capabilities, six students did not. 50 students said they had witnessed fighting or bullying on social media websites, 17 said they had not. Only 34 students had heard of the Jessica Logan Act, 32 students had not.
In explaining the school district’s responsibilities as outlined in the Jessica Logan Act, Barber assured students that district administrators and staff are not interested in keeping track of student’s social activities; that they would only check social sites if a problem is brought to their attention.
“We’re really proud of our students here at Big Walnut; they do a great job from day to day providing a warm and safe environment, making Big Walnut a great place to be,” Barber said. “But this law is a big change for us. We’re responsible for students outside these walls now; we’re responsible to create an anonymous way for students to report things in an age-appropriate way, K through 12.”
Barber said the other side of the Jessica Logan Act’s requirements is false reporting; that false reporting, like cyber-bullying itself, could lead to suspension or expulsion.
Barber said to keep bullying reporting completely anonymous the district is pricing third party 24/7 school help lines to handle physical calls and texts.
Students council has already presented the middle school version of the presentation to middle school students. Presentations are scheduled for Big Walnut Intermediate School and the district’s three elementary school buildings.