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Carroll County Times
Carroll County

School system educating students on technology use, cyberbullying

Since most of its students have grown up using technology from a young age, Carroll County Public Schools is now working to combat the newest form of bullying - cyberbullying.

The Carroll County Board of Education heard a presentation during its regular board meeting Wednesday about how students are educated about cyberbullying as part of the health curriculum in almost all grade levels.

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Superintendent of Schools Steve Guthrie said the school system is dealing with an increased number of cyberbullying incidents. The presentation discussed what the school system does to prevent that trend.

Dawn Rathgeber, assistant supervisor of Health Education, said students are taught Internet safety by teachers and counselors in a collaborative manner. It is in every level of the health curriculum except kindergarten through second grade, where lessons are applied on an individual basis.

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"We are constantly monitoring that level," she said.

In third grade, students are presented with different scenarios and practice the skills of how to respond to such bullying. In fourth grade, students create their own skits and role-play how they'd handle a particular situation, Rathgeber said.

"Teachers and counselors are aware that students are accessing personal devices younger and younger, sometimes supervised or unsupervised," she said.

In fifth grade, students are taught the different types of cyberbullying, such as harassment, impersonation and cyberstalking. Students learn what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior and discuss the emotional aspects of cyberbullying.

As students get into middle school in sixth grade, counselors often work with health teachers to present different scenarios, discuss how to have healthy relationships and talk about how students would feel if they were the victims of cyberbullying.

The seventh-grade curriculum is co-taught with police officers through the Adopt-a-School program. Lessons look at the potential consequences of bullying and cellphone safety.

"There's different kinds of technology changing every day, so it's nice to also get what the police officer sees," she said.

In eighth grade, students are taught to recognize the potential danger with online relationships and are asked to decide whether their comments are true, helpful, inspiring, necessary or kind before they post those statements online.

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In ninth-grade Health I, students are asked to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy use of technology using Internet, email, websites, instant messaging and cellphones as it relates to harassment and intimidating behaviors, Rathgeber said.

"We encourage them to use technology, but we want them to make good decisions," she said.

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In high school, students also go through high school advisory lessons where they look at responsible social media use, social networking and using the power of social media for positive purposes.

Director of Student Services Dana Falls said that in order to discipline students for engaging in cyberbullying, the act has to have a substantial connection to school.

If the cyberbullying is not directly connected to school, there can be mediation or intervention, but school officials cannot discipline them, Falls said.

"If a student relates bullying to school, makes threats associated with school, or is harassing a student about something related with school, we have then the authority to discipline," he said.

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Board President Barbara Shreeve said cyberbullying is an issue that's growing and becoming more prevalent in society.

Board member Jennifer Seidel said the issue worries her as both a Board of Education member and mother.

"I think these are important lessons for our children," she said. "It can become a very dangerous thing."


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