SIDNEY — The definition of bullying and cyberbullying was shared Thursday, March 8, during a presentation hosted by Sidney City Schools.
Juvenile Court Liaison Amy Simindinger and Assistant Shelby County Prosecutor Aaron Lowe gave the presentation at Sidney Middle School. The presentation focused on the issue of bullying as a community issue and was attended by more than 25 parents.
Simindinger opened the presentation by giving some background on herself and her responsibilities as a Juvenile Court Liaison, which include working with all eight school districts in Shelby County, working directly with children and their families, and coordinating the IMPACT program. The IMPACT program is a service available to students from preschool through 12th grade that offers services like counseling to help in each situation.
After giving her background, Simindinger launched into the main message of her program: bullying is a community issue that can take place anywhere and at any age. She cited a study completed about bullying, where a majority of participants faced bullying and/or cyberbullying.
Having established the prevalence of bullying, she turned to defining the issue of bullying as aggressive, unwanted behavior shown in a pattern and focusing on an imbalance of power. The four common types of bullying Simindinger listed were: physical, verbal, social and cyber. Simindinger then went on to define cyberbullying as taking place through “anything that can be used to transmit information electronically.” She gave an example of how cyberbullying is unique, where traditional bullying takes place Monday through Friday at school, with cyberbullying, “Monday is the new Friday” leaving no breaks for those being bullied.
Lowe then began his part of the program, first giving his background as an attorney who has dealt with cases involving both bullying and cyberbullying. Lowe focused on the legal repercussions of bullying and cyberbullying, especially on the charge of telecommunications harassment, which is a “first degree misdemeanor,” punishable by either “180 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.” This is a serious charge being only step below a fifth degree felony, said Lowe.
Another outcome could be a restraining order or “civil protection order,” which Lowe has witnessed occur between two children attending the same school, effectively forcing one to leave. The third legal consequence brought up by Lowe was the seizure of a “cyber tool,” or device used to commit telecommunications harassment.
Lowe then brought up the impact of one of these criminal charges being present on a person’s record, as it would raise red flags for future employers and negatively affect those looking to join the military or attempting to become a nurse or lawyer. Even minors would be hurt by these charges with their records being visible to employers after being sealed. Lowe emphasized, “technology has progressed so fast that we are seeing unintended consequences from a legal standpoint.”
Simindinger then began her second part of the presentation by demonstrating where to report bullying in the Sidney school system. She showed the Sidney schools website, where a person can go to the for families tab and then report instances of bullying directly to the administration, who receive the notice as an email and can then act on it.
The next focus was on how each part of the community can help both prevent bullying and deal with it. Simindinger believes that bullying is a community problem that will require a “community solution that is multifaceted using parents, students, and schools.” Simindinger left the audience with a final positive message of “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
The floor was then opened up for questions and comments, and the audience shared different suggestions and experiences. One parent posed the question of why there weren’t more visual aids like posters up in Sidney schools. This parent believed in the effectiveness of visual aids as a deterrent for bullying, saying that kids could easily understand posters.
Another parent cited her experience as a mother of children at multiple schools and in different grades, saying that she believed that current system of reporting bullying was too slow, leaving the real bullying plenty of time to happen before administrative action could take place.
Xavier Foy, a former Sidney High graduate expressed a desire for more practical and active measures to be taken. Foy proposed yearly programs and an annual Anti-Bullying week where students would be encouraged to be considerate to each other, with an example activity being leaving an uplifting note in other students’ lockers.
The writer is a student at Wright State University, Dayton, and will be a summer intern with the Sidney Daily News.