PR School Board Considers Expanding Anti-Bullying Policy to Include Off-Campus Settings

The policy change must pass three readings.

What is a bullied student to do when the bullying occurs electronically on a Facebook page or through texts or tweets? Does the school district have any power to stop it?

The Pine-Richland School Board is considering expanding its anti-bullying/cyberbullying policy to include off-campus settings.

A change in policy goes through three readings before the board—the first reading already passed, with no discussion or comments. The second reading is scheduled for the Oct. 22 meeting.

While the district has had an anti-bullying/cyberbullying policy in place since January 2009, it referred to school settings.

"School setting means in the school, on school grounds, in school vehicles, at a designated bus stop or at any activity sponsored, supervised or sanctioned by the school," the policy stated.

The proposed policy change adds "and on the way to and from school," to that definition.

But it also includes more expansive language—the proposed changes are in italics:

"The board prohibits all forms of bullying by district students in all school settings," the policy states. "The board also prohibits all forms of bullying by district students in non-school settings, and will enforce consequences provided under this policy to acts of bullying occurring in a non-school setting to the fullest extent permitted by law."

A handful of states have laws that apply to students' off-campus behaviors, according to cyberbullying.us.

Bullying is defined in the policy as "an intentional electronic, written, verbal or physical act or series of acts directed at another student or students that is severe, persistent or pervasive."

The definition also says the bullying has the effect of substantially interfering with a student's education, creating a threatening environment or substantially disrupting the "orderly operation of the school."

What do you think about expanding the school district's bullying/cyberbullying policy to off-campus settings? Tell us in the comments.

Stacy October 09, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Good idea! Let's try this for several years and see if it helps. If everyone, parents included, had a zero tolerance for this type of behavior, then the lives of our children...ALL children...would improve.
Fred Freitag October 09, 2012 at 12:45 PM
The problem is - that a school board can't regulate a child's activity outside of a school activity or when they aren't on school grounds, etc. even though they want to. So, although the school board can institute this new rule, they are limited in it's applicability and enforcing such.
Fred Freitag October 09, 2012 at 12:59 PM
The proposed language may not be enforceable. "school districts must operate within certain parameters in addressing conduct away from school grounds. This duty extends beyond “portal to portal.” In fact, in the area of cyberbullying, nearly all of the activity occurs off school premises. In order to address conduct away from school grounds, school districts must show that the conduct in question either has or reasonably can be expected to cause a material and substantial disruption to the school environment and the disciplinary action is reasonably necessary for the student’s physical or emotional safety and well-being, or for reasons relating to the safety and well-being of other students, teachers or public school property. The disruption does not have to affect the entire school and can be limited to one student. School districts cannot hold students to a higher standard of conduct as a condition for participation in extracurricular activities. Finally, students have the First Amendment right to express their opinions about school officials off school premises, so long as they do not engage in true threats or otherwise cause disruption to the school environment. Emerging case law is likely to provide further direction and clarification in this area, particularly in light of emerging technologies and the legal issues that come with the use of such technologies." [http://www.legallyspeakingmagazine.com/addressing-conduct-away-from-school-grounds.html]
Mary B October 09, 2012 at 01:10 PM
My child has experienced bullying in school and via social media. It has been reported and the school seems to not want to take this seriously, especially if the bullying is done by a teacher/coach. They have implemented a form that can be completed regarding bullying for student to student, but not for teacher/coach to student. Why? They need to first get control of what is going on in their schools and then address the social media.
Fred Freitag October 09, 2012 at 01:43 PM
You have my sympathy and complete understanding. I specifically asked Dr. Bucci about that - IF the current bullying rule was also applicable as between teachers and/or coaches to students - to which she stated, "yes". However, she did nothing when specific instances were brought to her attention. That is part of the reasons I believe that Dr. Bucci should not have been rehired.
Peggy October 09, 2012 at 01:49 PM
I think the more we do to keep bullying out of school,off the internet and under control in our society the better off we as a society will be. We all need to practice self controll in our speech and action. Bullying not only hurts the victim but the one who is doing the bullying. He or She loses, by being labeled a bully and losing opportunities to progress. Lets face it bullying destroys lives.
Bob Necciai October 09, 2012 at 08:43 PM
When does Big Brother stop? Everyone is against bullying but once you leave the grounds of school, it is time for the parents to parent, and use whatever meands they have at their disposal to control the situations. Whats next? No trans fat at home because we think it is too unhealthy for you? No watching sports because it is violent? Bullying is a terrible thing that needs to be controlled, but this new policy is not the way to do it.
Parent #2 October 09, 2012 at 10:05 PM
I think I agree Bob. How on earth do they have any right to enforce anything in a NON- school setting? Sounds very overreaching if you ask me. So if a PR student bullies someone at Starbucks what can the PR Board do about it legally? Is it just smoke and mirrors?? Intentions are good here against bullying, but it is either poorly written or the Board is trying to cover all their bases and have ended up being overreaching.
Fred Freitag October 09, 2012 at 10:12 PM
I completely agree with you Bob. As I stated in my previous comment, I don't think that it's an enforceable rule whatsoever in settings not related to school property or school event. By the rules actual language they are attempting to enforce something they have no right to do.
Parent #2 October 09, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Fred - Good Info above - thanks.
Cindy Cusic Micco October 09, 2012 at 10:31 PM
I posted a story a little while ago about a PR student who started an anti-bullying Facebook page. You might be interested in seeing the issues from the point of view of the two students I interviewed. Here's the link: http://pine-richland.patch.com/articles/pine-richland-students-establishes-anti-bullying-facebook-page
Fred Freitag October 09, 2012 at 10:34 PM
You're welcome and thanks for the comment. I find it bewildering that they even think about such an expansion of the anti-bullying policy to include non-school settings. It would seem patently obvious to me that it's "ultra vires" and something beyond their powers to promulgate.
Parent #2 October 09, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Cindy- I think most of us are sympathetic to those children that are bullied. That was a great article. But We are questioning the non-school settings that are written in to this proposed policy.
Fred Freitag October 09, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Yes, laudable on behalf of those students certainly. However, our issue is with the school board. I question when an entity becomes over zealous and commits ultra vires acts (the board acting "under color of law" purporting to act in the performance of their official duties under any state, county, or municipal law, ordinance, or regulation) usurping the rights of others without the legal authority to do such. Basically "over-stepping" their power and authority to the abrogation and detriment of the rights of parents and students alike. It makes me pause certainly.
Denise Dyni October 10, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I think they would be overstepping their bounds if they pass this change.
Cindy Cusic Micco October 10, 2012 at 12:40 AM
I think this is a good discussion of a complex subject. Here's more food for thought: http://www.csriu.org/cyberbully/docs/cblegislation.pdf We all abhor bullying—but Facebook, Twitter, email, texting, etc. adds a whole new dimension to the problem. I don't know what the answer is, but I appreciate reading the different views here. Anyone else want to weigh in?
Peter Lyons October 11, 2012 at 12:29 AM
There are a lot of good points here and I’m glad to see the interest in this issue. The questions being raised are legitimate concerns, many of which were discussed and debated by the Board earlier this year when the Board first began discussing this policy. I hope that many of these concerns were addressed as the policy was drafted, revised, and reviewed by legal counsel. Also be aware that I am contributing here to provide some additional background information, but I can only speak as an individual and not for the School Board itself. With respect to a school's right to regulate off-campus speech, there is a body of case law, both at the state and federal level, that permits schools to limit off-campus speech to the extent that this speech interferes with a school's educational mission (see, for instance J.S. v. Bethlehem Area School District, Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 2002; or Doninger v. Niehoff, 2nd Circuit Court of the United States, 2008). Pennsylvania’s anti-bullying statute explicitly covers school districts that wish to regulate bullying that takes place outside of a traditional (physical) school setting. And many other school districts in the state already have such policies in place, including nearby Hampton School District. The link Cindy gave also provides additional background on the legal precedents for these regulations.
Peter Lyons October 11, 2012 at 12:30 AM
(continued) This policy is not intended nor designed to infringe upon legitimate forms of student expression or criticism. If you read the proposed policy, it’s hard to see how it would do so. The acts defined as bullying must be “severe, persistent or pervasive”, and must have the effect of creating a “threatening environment” or substantially interfering with a student’s education or the orderly operation of the school. These criteria should help to filter out inappropriate uses of this policy. As I recall, the discussion of the Board also reflected the fact that case law in this area is still evolving, and recognized that the policy may need to be revised in the future to keep up with any new legal developments. Nonetheless, I think these proposed revisions are a big improvement over current policy. This policy is no substitute for good parenting, of course. But it can provide leverage for those situations wherein a parent is unwilling to or unable to recognize and address inappropriate behavior on the part of their child. Along with the implementation of the Olweus anti-bullying program, it will help the Administration to identify and work to prevent behavior and acts that are inappropriate and not protected under the law. These opinions are, of course, my own and not necessarily those of the Board.
Parent #2 October 11, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Thanks for the information Peter. So what if persey, a child were calling another child on Facebook names because of his Religion or sexual orientation. How would your proposed policy work in this context? How does the district determine if it is severe or pervasive- who makes that determination when it comes to assessing statements made in cyber space? How does the district determine if it is substantially interfering with a students education or operation of the school? Meaning- how would it objectively measure this impact and how could it directly correlate the two? Seems like s very slippery slope. I don't have kids in the schools now but this is a very interesting topic.
Parent #2 October 11, 2012 at 12:52 AM
"per se" !
Kate October 11, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Dear Parent #2- Hey Ann- Really? How many times do I have to read about how you don't have kids in the district and you don't really know what is going on and yet you have such a huge opinion about PR and policy. Does the word "troll" strike a bell with you?
Parent #2 October 11, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Kate- why does it bother you so much that I post my opinion? We pay taxes here and care about the future of the district in case we do send our kids there. And no- I don't know about the Bucci contract and if you notice- I did not comment on that in particular. Why are you so defensive Kate?
crosbycat October 11, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Kate you are being rude by trying to intimidate a TAXPAYER from commenting! Ironic that we are discussing bullying...
Mary B October 11, 2012 at 01:46 PM
I was thinking the same thing as crosbycat...ironic that this is a bullying discussion!
Steve Smalls October 11, 2012 at 09:17 PM
great comments from Bob and Fred. What about parents vs admin, teachers, coaches, and support staff. In this day and age even professionals are slammed by social media, comments/concerns at meetings. Where is the policy protecting all of PR. I am sure Dr Bucci and the BoD have all received their fair share of verbal lashing over long periods of time, that by definition would be considered bullying.
another PR mom October 11, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I for one am completely FOR this policy and I applaud the board for doing this. I really hate it when people who are not familiar with the law try to dissect the legality of something. People-this is a policy that is in effect in many other districts so there is ample precedent. I highly doubt that it will be abused if enacted here. I feel that the risk of this is superceded by the need for this kind of policy. My kids are not old enough for social media yet but I have heard some truly horrifying stories of events that happened within our district that were very clearly school related yet were played out on social media (threats of bodily harm was one of them) and the administrators did absolutely NOTHING even though they had full detail of what went on. Not acceptable. Go PR Board!!! You are doing a terrific job!
My-Key-Tee October 12, 2012 at 10:24 AM
Perhaps the administrators should effectively enforce the current policy within their buildings before reaching out further.
Jacob Pavlecic October 14, 2012 at 01:50 AM
My iinterpretation of this new policy is that now if a student is caught bullying outside of a school setting the board will take action against that student as they would if it happened in school. So, detention, suspension, or possible expulsion. I believe a school district would be perfectly obligated to take such actions.


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