School Administrators

Cyberbullying and Student Safety

Cyberbullying

The advancements in technology have been tremendously beneficial.  These wonderful improvements in technology present new challenges for school administrators, however.  Twitter, Facebook, blogs and etc. are constantly frequented and used by numerous K-12 students.  School administrators must handle problems that occur on Facebook and Twitter, which largely occur while students aren’t at school.  Many students across the nation are engaging in cyberbullying, primarily through Facebook and Twitter.  Administrators already have a difficult job of preventing and responding to disciplinary problems that transpire on their campuses; now, they have to think critically about how to address cyberbullying that takes place off-campus.

Social media employed wisely and purposely proves to be valuable.  Unfortunately, too many students use Facebook and Twitter as vehicles for intimidation, hate and aggression.

Cyberbullying is a phenomenon that cannot be simply addressed by administrators—it requires a collective effort.  Parents must do a better job of monitoring their children’s online activities.  It’s not a matter of functioning as “Big Brother” toward your children; it’s a matter of committed parenting.  If you deeply love your children, you will be concerned about how they behave in all spaces, including online.  When parents discover their children are involved in cyberbullying, they need to contact administrators immediately, and they need to take all necessary steps to end cyberbullying.

Students who are interested in maintaining safe schools need to report cyberbullying when they witness it.  Let administrators know when you see activities on Facebook and Twitter that constitute bullying.  If you’re being bullied online, let your parents and school administrators know.  Don’t wait until the bullying gets out of control to inform your parents and school administrators.  You should let them know that you’re being bullied when it first begins.

Your life could depend on you mustering the courage to disclose with your parents and school administrators that you’re being bullied.

If you’re not being bullied online, don’t encourage others to bully people.  Laughing at others who are being bullied is a form of participating and encouraging bullying.  Bullies like attention and when you laugh at what they do, they feed off of your laughter and increase in their intensity.

While it’s important for school administrators to be proactive about cyberbullying, they must understand that they cannot react (or overreact) to everything that’s reported.  It’s not wise to address every ephemeral argument between students on Facebook and Twitter.

More research should be devoted to helping school administrators to fight cyberbullying.  A national think tank composed of administrators, teachers, students, legislators, law enforcement officials, counselors, psychologists, and etc. should be convened to discuss cyberbullying and to establish best practices for combating it.  Scholars need to engage in more research that helps school administrators better respond to cyberbullying.  In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shootings, we must learn valuable lessons about how we have to do a better job of preventing tragedies from happening at our schools.  We will never end all tragedies from occurring, but this does not mean that we shouldn’t do all we can to prevent the ones we’re able to thwart.  If we see the potential of bullying taking place online that could lead to something drastic, we all have a responsibility to do what we can to stop it.

Although the current national discourse about school safety is predominantly focusing on guns, let’s be sure to place a high priority on cyberbullying, especially cyberbullying on Facebook and Twitter.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Open Letter to School Administrators

Dear School Administrators:

When you’re observing and evaluating teachers in their classroom, it’s vital that they have all of the information about what you expect from them before you enter their classrooms.  If you haven’t done a good job of providing them with feedback, then you cannot expect them to be the type of teachers you consider to be effective teachers.  When you’re observing and evaluating teachers, they need direct instruction about what you expect from them in the classroom.  How can teachers do the jobs you expect for them to do when they never receive specific training on what you expect from them?

When you expect teachers to follow guidelines for a standards-based classroom, you cannot simply give them a standards-based classroom checklist and leave them to interpret the standards-based classroom checklist and expect them to be ready for you to come in and observe and evaluate their performance in the classroom. How silly is that?  When you do this, it seems like you are setting the teachers up for failure—either intentionally or unintentionally.

Be fair to teachers and give them all of the information, training, materials, equipment, and etc. they need to be effective teachers.  Before you begin grading teachers and asking them to grade themselves, how about you grade yourselves first.  When you begin to engage in critically assessing yourselves first, then you may discover just why your teachers are not performing to a level that meets your expectations.

Although it is vital for students to perform well on standardized tests, you have to place a stronger emphasis on giving teachers credit for the ways they motivate students to learn.  Many students would care less about a standardized test if they didn’t have teachers who are motivating them to care about the standardized test they have to take.  When people run into your offices telling you about what a teacher is doing and not doing, begin to question the value and credibility of person who is telling you something a teacher does or does not do that doesn’t have an impact on student motivation and student academic achievement.

Some of you need to stop hiding behind your desks and computers and address the teachers you truly have problems with, instead of sending out emails addressed to everyone, making it appear like you’re having problems with a great number of teachers when it’s really just several teachers.

Many teachers are doing a great job and really care about their students.  Be sure that you’re not doing things that will cause those teachers to leave the profession or your school.  You don’t want the good or great teachers to leave your school while the ones who are just there to get a check remain.  When you try to communicate to your teachers that you appreciate the job that they are doing, be sure that your words and actions evince that you truly mean what you’re attempting to communicate.

We all want the best for all of our students.  Therefore, since you’re the leaders of our schools, then make sure you’re doing all you can to empower your teachers to be the best they can be.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison