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Kids These Days:

Facebook bullies should be punished

October 12, 2009|By Steve Smith

How would you like to rob a bank without wearing a disguise, or get caught red-handed on security cameras and never go on trial for the crime, even though many people know who you are and/or where you live? Or perhaps you’d like to run multiple red lights, get your license plate and face photographed by traffic cameras and never pay a fine. Or maybe you and your friends would like to post a video on Facebook, in which you threaten to rape and kill someone, and never suffer a single consequence.

That’s quite a world you’d be living in. While the first two scenarios are unlikely, the third is not only possible, it happened. And it happened in our school district.

In January, three students at Corona del Mar High School got drunk (or, so they say) and made a video that was posted for about eight days on a fourth student’s Facebook page. In the video, which is a disgusting, shameful, expletive-filled display of ignorance, the boys threatened to rape and kill a fellow student. The story now is not about homophobia, racism or any other type of discrimination. The story is about the school district’s failure to enforce its own policy on bullying, which is clearly defined as, “any gestures, comments, threats or actions … which cause or threaten to cause … bodily harm or personal degradation.”

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Go to the official website of the Newport Mesa Unified School District (web.nmusd.us/), and you will see an entire page of links to sources about cyber safety. There is even a section on how to handle cyber bullying. Follow the links to Wiredsafety.org and you will see a cartoon video starring a fictional character named Chris Bradbury, who is crying as he reports a bullying episode. Chris says the bully threatened to hurt his dog.

By not following through on its own zero-tolerance policy on bullying by properly disciplining the boys, the district administration has set a precedent that should be of great concern to parents. After all, if these boys were not suspended or expelled, or prosecuted for this obvious act of bullying, what is to become of the tyrant who walks up to another and in front of witnesses, says, “I’m going to hurt you after school”?

It’s hard to discipline that bully when the boys in the video got off easy. Karyl and Michael Ketchum, the parents of the bullied student, told me that this incident is unique.

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