The online social networking explosion has made bullying a more difficult problem. We have seen in the news heart-wrenching stories of children who have committed suicide after relentless bullying online. Cyberbullying is a pervasive, anonymous and particularly cruel activity. There is no escape for those who are being pursued. today, bullies can reach into the home, and victims have no safety zone or means of escape. Cyberbullying has also become a problem for school administrators. Laws have been passed that make school systems responsible for intervening in bullying situations that occur off campus, posing unique problems for school principals.
Unlike when most of us went to high school, the persistence and intensity of bullying seems to be widespread and growing. In opening the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention on March 10, President Barack Obama stated that nearly one out of three students in middle and high school had been bullied. We all assume that it will not happen in our schools and to our children or grandchildren or, if it does, that it can be dealt with quickly.
But cyberbullying is just one manifestation of a broader increase in incivility in this country. Whether it is a congressman shouting, “You lie!” to the president during a speech to Congress, various protests going on around the country by teachers, or a parent’s angry words during a local board of education meeting, it seems that the manner with which we express our disagreement and exhibit our frustration is out of control. While I am the first to support the right to protest, we should do it in a manner that models for our children how we can disagree without threats, vile signs and shouting other people down. After all, isn’t incivility just another manifestation of bullying behavior? We adults should be setting the example for children, and I am afraid in our society that is not happening.