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Clicks, Cliques & Cyberbullying: Whole-School Response is Key (page 2)

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Updated on Jul 9, 2010

Turning incidents into 'teachable moments'

Those words are crucial: "learning opportunity," "teachable moment." They are stepping stones on the way to building the school's "culture of dignity," as Wiseman put. Because it's merely logical that a one-time, sage-on-the-stage assembly will accomplish very little. It's also logical that involving all players and skill sets – students, parents, teachers, administrators, and counselors – creates the conditions for changing the school's culture. The school is, in fact, creating a new social norm – as Elizabeth Englander, director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center and an adviser to state legislators working on bullying-education legislation, told Emily Bazelon at Slate.com – where the whole school community looks down on dissing, flaming, mean gossiping, and other social cruelty, hopefully including students' parents. The Slate piece links to some great resources for school strategizing. For example, here's a sexting investigation protocol from the Center for Safe & Responsible Internet Use offering the spectrum of sexting causes and intentions enabling school staff to ask students intelligent questions.

When an interdisciplinary group of us were working on that protocol, authored by Nancy Willard, it occurred to me that, because it lays out the spectrum of sexting's causes, it'll help school officials see why it's essential that schools not just reflexively hand off investigations to law enforcement (whose involvement some state laws require).

The goal of any incident investigation

"The immediate goal of the investigation is not discipline [and certainly not expediency] but rather support for the targeted student(s) [who may be experiencing psychological harm], and restoration of order. The ultimate goal is to create a learning opportunity for all involved. The learning opportunity should be on-the-spot, as well as school and community-wide, and focus on the areas of critical thinking, mindful decision-making, perspective-taking, and citizenship." That's a statement a couple of us worked up because we feel it's so important for everybody to understand that, in the social-media age, we can only change behavior – in schools and online communities – together, as "a village."

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