Lessons from Lakeville on cyber-bullying

Will you take five minutes to help protect your children?  Please consider several steps  suggested below that come from a Lakeville incident.

First, read the following with (not to, but with) your youngster(s).  It’s from a June 12 press release.

“Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom announced that four students at Century Middle School in Lakeville have been charged today with crimes involving the taking and distribution of inappropriate photos and a video in May of 2012. The following charges have been filed:

(1) A 14-year-old boy has been charged with Conspiracy to Commit Interference With Privacy (a gross misdemeanor) and Criminal Defamation (a gross misdemeanor);

(2) A 13-year-old boy has been charged with Conspiracy to Commit Interference With Privacy (a gross misdemeanor) and Criminal Defamation (a gross misdemeanor);

(3) A 14-year-old girl has been charged with Interference With Privacy (a gross misdemeanor) and Criminal Defamation (a gross misdemeanor); and

(4) A 14-year-old girl has been charged with Interference with Privacy (a gross misdemeanor).

“…These charges stem from (a May 2012 incident)… reported to the Lakeville Police Department on May 21 by a school administrator in which two girls allegedly took photos and a video of two other girls undressing in the school’s locker room. The first girl charged is alleged to have taken four photos of one victim and a video of another victim. The second girl charged is alleged to have taken one photo of one of the same victims. The photos and video showed the backs of the victims partially undressed from the waist down (none of the images showed the victims naked).”

The two boys charged in this case had apparently created a game in which they took photos of the buttocks of girls in the hallway and forwarded these photos to other students. It is believed that each boy paid one of the girls $5, and one of the boys gave her a can of soda to take the inappropriate images in the locker room. The second girl charged is believed to have taken one inappropriate photo as a result of the urging of the first girl charged in this case … these inappropriate photos/images may have been seen by more than 40 students from the school.”

Stunning, right?

Now please consider having your youngsters watch a 45-second video, “Pause before you Post,” produced by Josten’s.  Jeff McGonigal, an Anoka district administrator, reports students were “extremely attentive” when teachers showed this. He recommends that parents watch and discuss it with their children.

www.jostens.com/students/students_cp_pause_before_you_post.html

After reading the press release and watching the video, it’s time for a short family writing assignment. Ask: “Please write down five rules that you will follow about the use of cell phones and forwarding pictures, based on what you’ve read and seen.”

You should write down a few rules. My list would include:

•No taking pictures of people who are not fully dressed.

•No forwarding of embarrassing pictures to others, that someone sends you.

•Tell me if someone does this to you.

Compare lists, and create a final copy.  Now, what happens if these rules are not followed? As one teacher reminded me – “There need to be consequences – like losing a cell phone for a while, if youngsters don’t follow these rules.”

You and your youngster(s) should sign this.

Marco Voce, Zimmerman High School principal, told me, “Usually the biggest problem is that the school doesn’t get notified until it (bullying) has been going on beyond a reasonable time frame. I would suggest reporting as soon as possible.”

Julie O’Mara-Meyer, a family support worker at the Caledonia Elementary School, suggests that families “Listen to your kids when they come home.  Encourage them to tell you if someone is bullying them.   Give them some strategies to help.  For example,  ‘Tell the bully —strongly, I don’t like it.  Stop!’  If that doesn’t solve the problem, contact school officials immediately.”

Backstrom praised the Lakeville police and school district for their prompt actions.  He’s right. Monica Jensen in Backstrom’s office also was extremely responsive when contacted.

We can’t prevent every youngster from sometimes doing silly, even stupid things.  But we can help children and teens learn how to deal. The Lakeville incident can help protect your youngsters. — Joe Nathan (Editor’s note: Nathan is a parent of three and formerly a public school teacher and administrator, who directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome, joe@centerforschoolchange.org.)

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