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Hillsborough School Board toughens cyberbullying policy with new law

6:15 PM, Sep 24, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida- Bullying isn't just in the school hallways or in the classroom anymore; 7th grader Rebecca Sedwick experienced it online over and over again until the Lakeland 12-year-old took her own life.  

Some Hill Middle School students say Rebecca's death has taught them to get involved.

See also: Mother launches anti-bullying campaign after daughter's suicide

"To look out for others more- if my friends are being bullied, it's good to jump in and help," says 13-year-old Garret Welch, an eighth grader.

Students now have a new tool to use. It's a new state law that expands school administrators' jurisdiction over cyber bullies who bully after school hours and off school campus.

"I think that's the worst way of bullying because it's constant. It's not only our school day," said Vinnie Rodgers, 13, also an eighth grader. "it can be over weekends, holidays- all night."  

According to the law signed by Governor Rick Scott, if the bullying impacts the victim's performance in class, school officials can investigate and punish the bully.

"I think it's a better way to tackle bullying," said Garrett.

"If some students are getting bullied outside of school, no one knows about it and it keeps going on, so if the school knows it can take action," added Gabbi Mirabella, a 12-year-old seventh grader.

Hill Middle has an anti bullying program called SAVE that stands for Students Against Violence Everywhere. School officials report four cases of bullying last year.

Principal Jackie Scaglione says administrators are required to investigate each bullying complaint in school and on-line, but that even under this new law, school officials need parents to do their part too.

"We need your help. We need you to police your child's Facebook page. It's not something we have access to; we can't police it," said Principal Scaglione. "But we can certainly assist when we get these reports."

Once parents and students file a bullying complaint online with school administrators, a teacher or school staff they have 10 school days to complete the investigation. 

Both the bully and the victim are offered mediation, counseling and can be reassigned to another school if necessary.


Follow 10 News Reporter Isabel Mascarenas on twitter @IzzyMascarenas

Isabel Mascarenas

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