Cyberbullies, beware

Bullying is grounds for suspension or expulsion in California, whether it’s done face to face or through electronic media. And if there was any doubt that Facebook and other social networks came under the state’s definition of electronic media, there isn’t anymore.

Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-San Jose) introduced the Cyber Bully Prevention bill, AB 746, this year. Not surprisingly, it won bipartisan support and faced little opposition before Gov. Jerry Brown signed it on Friday, according to a news release from Campos’s office. (I wouldn’t imagine many politicians would vote against an anti-bullying bill, even if they didn’t like it, though some did.)

The new rule takes effect in January. Here it is:  Cyber bully prevention law

Does anyone at your school or your child’s school monitor social networks? Have students been disciplined after allegations of cyberbullying? Do you think this will make a difference in how kids interact with each other online?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Gordon Danning

    This seems like it might have some free speech issues.

    And,for God’s sake, I hope there is no school out there that spends scarce resources to monitor social networks. Not to mention the Big Brother aspect. Surely, they can wait until someone makes an actual complaint.

  • Nextset

    This is an interesting post because it implies there is any discipline in the schools.

    Will someone please explain what kinds of discipline goes on in the high schools. What is done to students that break rules nowadays?

  • Gordon Danning


    Generally, the same thing that happens to teachers who break the rules: nothing

  • Katy Murphy

    I wonder what the ACLU has to say about this. I just came across this story about a teenager who called his teacher a “fat ass” in a Facebook status update and was suspended for cyberbullying; the ACLU stepped in and got the suspension removed from his record. But what if it had been a classmate, rather than a teacher?


    (ACLU attorney Linda) Lye said courts have recognized students’ right to nondisruptive free expression since a 1969 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Vietnam War opponents who wore black armbands to their high school class.

    When a student’s words are directed at a classmate or a teacher, Lye said, courts have upheld discipline if the speech threatens violence or constitutes bullying or harassment.

    “Schools have an obligation to provide a safe school environment,” the lawyer said. But “petty comments, insults, ordinary personality conflicts … don’t rise to the level of harassment.”

  • Can’t believe it

    Not in Oakland: There is a ladder of escalating consequences leading up to expulsion.

    No one will monitor the Internet, but rest assured the vast majority of conflicts at school continue or escalate in cyberspace as kids exchange texts, tweets, photos, post on their Facebook walls, and spreAd viral rumors about what has or will go down the next day. This is a regular part of every kid’s life, whether adults know about it or not. Kids are carrying around smart phones (really mini-computers) and are in constant communication with one another, with messages instantly forwarded to entire schools about unoccupied houses, availability od drugs and al oho, photos of half-clothed and inebriated classmates, and complaints about tea hers, administrators and parents.

    The additional legal question ( besides the obvious First Amendment issues) is whether students can be disciplined for insulting or threatening teachers or administrators in cyberspace. So far, courts have said no, but now with this law passed, why not?

  • Yastrzemski

    And let’s not make “general” statements, just because a lot of this slides in the public OUSD schools, it doesn’t mean that some schools in Oakland don’t discipline effectively. Many of the Charters hold students responsible for their behaviors and punish them appropriately, even if it means kicking them out.

    Before you say it, I KNOW…then they end up back in the public schools and therein lies the problem. I’ve got to agree with Nextset on this point though, we need to have a place where these kids can go for alternative job training. Just because they have problems in a traditional classroom does not mean that they cannot learn a skill and get a job. We need a Vocational HS and, at the other end of the spectrum, a Lowell…with high standards and an application process. Is this really that difficult to do in OUSD?

    Many colleges are now using the social media sites to check on their applicants, that should deter some of these idiotic posts that show up on teens pages and walls.

  • Sue

    I don’t think it’s reasonable to blame the schools when the discipline problems are coming from the lack of meaningful discipline at home.

    I can’t speak to high school discipline, since my Skyline graduate never had any discipline issues – one of the rare advantages of having a kid with autism, he always had a one-on-one aide with him, and he *liked* knowing and following the rules.

    My rising 9th grader had a couple of discipline issues come up while he was in 6th/7th grade at Montera. Some of his friends during lunch were throwing rocks at a trash can on school grounds (I’m sure he was too, although he said at the time that he wasn’t), and the vice principal caught them. No rock throwing allowed, no matter what the target. My husband met with the v.p., and the kids who were involved were required to eat their lunch in the multi-purpose room/cafeteria for the rest of the school year, instead of hanging outside during lunch time.

    I think there was one other incident, but can’t remember details. Hubby and I reinforced the v.p.’s position, and let our boy know that any more problems would have consequences at home too. (no screens – i.e. TV, gameboy, PS2, PS3, PC, and anything else with a video screen). He cleaned up his act and stayed out of trouble after that.

    School discipline works a whole lot better when the parents are aware and back up the school’s policies. When the parents don’t, the kids figure out really quickly that they can ignore the school rules without significant consequences.

  • Sue

    And to address the cyber-bullying issue – if my kid gets any complaints about his bullying anyone else, that’s going to be it. He’ll be off facebook, or whatever he was using. Depending on how bad it was, he might be off all PC activities, and there could be other consequences, too. If he’s the victim/target of someone else’s bullying, his dad and I will find the culprit(s) and they will be stopped.

  • Katy Murphy

    The Common Sense Media nonprofit offers free “digital literacy and citizenship” curricula for kids in grades k-12. More than 140 schools in Alameda and Contra Costa counties are registered to use it, and it offers resources for parents as well as educators. Here’s more info: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators.

    A statement from the organization’s CEO, James Steyer:

    “We commend California, led by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, for updating the State’s anti-bullying laws for the 21st century digital world we are living in. This law will make kids think twice about what they post on social networking sites, and it makes it crystal clear that their online actions have real life consequences. With today’s kids growing up in a 24/7 media environment, digital literacy and citizenship should be required as part of every school’s basic curriculum so that they are aware of the digital rules of the road. We have to make sure today’s generation of kids is both educated and empowered to make smart and responsible decisions in their digital lives.”

    Also today, Facebook and Time Warner launched a “Stop Bullying: Speak Up” campaign and plan to release a social media anti-bullying pledge app this fall.

  • Nextset

    So as usual the real issue is whether you send your child to an “open” school where the jungle rules, or send the child to a private school that can and will maintain standards of deportment.

    The sorting starts at pre-school nowadays.

    Brave New World.

  • Sue

    Well, Nextset, you seem to have missed my point – our family is pretty happy with a third option that you didn’t list: selecting a quality public school with an effective staff of teachers and administrators, and involved and invested parents.

    That doesn’t describe every school in OUSD, of course, but it does describe the ones that my sons have attended.

  • Nextset

    Sue: I don’t believe black children in Oakland generally are in a position to go to “good” schools. They are routed to their assigned school – unless perhaps they will apply to one of the public school magnet programs. The reason for this is the PC belief that one size fits all and all are equal.

    In a district I’d envision they would be routed to a school that fits their test scores and performance as the age into high school classes. In otherwords, tracked into a (largely non-black) college prep campus unless the child refused to go or flunked out.

    And the refuse-to-go syndrome would be a very real thing. I’ve known black children who were furious when their parents sent them to non-black competitive schools at High School rather than have them follow their middle school “friends” into uncompetitive largely black schools. In the cases I remember they got over it. The bright black students found new friends, those more in keeping with their academic and social level.

    In those cases they had parents that set the rules and made the decisions. Having their kids happy was optional. Most black kids don’t have such parents it seems, and the schools decide where they go.

  • Sue

    Can’t argue with anything you’ve said, Nextset. Generally.

    I was just pointing out the existence of exceptions to the general rules – kids of many different ethnic origins, including black kids, who have attended Montera and Skyline (good public schools) with my sons.

  • Nextset

    Is Skyline considered a “good public school”? Can it compete with Piedmont in any way? Or Lowell High?

    Asa far as the Cyberbullying – If the schools cannot summarily dispose of a student who threatens staff, are we to believe they can effectively deter and punish those who would attack teachers on their websites – or the other students?

    I’d love for readers to explain any instance they see of effective discipline in the OUSD involving teens. Maybe it does occur, I hope so.

  • Teaches at Oak land School

    Nextset, to answer your question, No, Skyline is not considered a good school, except by the parents who want to justify why they sent their children there. You can’t say Montera is a good school either, it is just all right. By the way, my children all went there. If Skyline were considered a good school, the teachers there wouldn’t be trying to find other schools to which to send their own children (I know of at least 3). A new graduate told me he didn’t learn anything in English until he took an AP course his senior year so there were 3 wasted years of English. I wonder how he will do in college as opposed to those kids who had three years of honors English at O’Dowd before their year of AP English.
    White parents like to say their child is exposed to “the real world” as if the microcosm that is Skyline is the real world. If their child gets a white collar job, being able to converse intelligently with others they work with or with clients will be more important than being able to speak ghetto English.

  • Christopher Scheer

    I don’t know how a cyberbullying post became a Skyline-bashing thread, but I think Nextset and Teaches are off-base in comparing Skyline to elite/elitist schools and then finding it lacking. This is a setup.

    Are there many poorly-performing students at Skyline? Yes. Has the school had a ton of leadership turnover? Yes. Are there some crummy things about the school? Sure.

    Yet just like Berkeley High, Oakland Tech and many other big urban high schools, you have to see all the amazing things happening amidst the swirl. At Skyline, you have a world-class performing arts program operating on a shoestring, a slew of competitive sports teams, a wide variety of strong AP teachers and course offerings, functioning career academies, true economic and ethnic diversity, and a stunning campus in the woods, among other strengths.

    To belittle a real-world urban public school of 100 teachers and 1900 students as just a place to learn “ghetto English” is to show a sickening disdain for the hard work of both. No, Skyline is not Piedmont nor is it Lowell, and perhaps your teacher friends think they can do better for their kids — and all power to them –but it certainly a place many kids manage to get a good education, whether their goal is to get a white-collar job or not, and those kids who throw themselves into AP or the many extracurriculars can get a great education.

    (BTW, Teaches: Your recent grad could have taken three years of AP English if he/she wasn’t challenged in the “Prep” level courses. Many Skyline grads end up with close to a dozen AP courses on their transcripts and pass the associated tests.).

  • Can’t believe it

    Chris- I graduated from Skyline and I want it to be a “good” school, but you are talking about 100 kids out of 1900, and a few teachers out of 100 plus. The administrative turnover and the failure to post test scores shows the school cannot operate on a basic level required of good schools. It is, or was, a beautiful campus and used to draw all the hill students, but those days are long past. You mentioned sports. Skyline used to be a power, but no longer. The OAL is a lesser league, yes, still with many superior athletes, but poorly organized and run, which could not academically qualify many athletes to compete if they participated in NCS Championships. That is why they maintain a separate league.

    However, Skyline is the obvious starting point for an academic high school. All AP courses throughout the District could be concentrated there as a starting point.

  • http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    Re administrative turnover at Skyline.

    The school had a longtime principal who retired at the end of 2002. The next principal lasted four years, which is not bad, considering the general climate emanating from 2nd Ave. with the district being revamped by a bunch of know-it-all Broad Foundation outsiders who had been sent in by the state.

    I don’t know exactly why that principal left abruptly, but I heard from a good source that it was because she was utterly frustrated with hiring problems that were caused by downtown. So it wasn’t exactly “Skyline’s” fault.

    The next principal was supposed to be a short term fill-in while a formal search was to be conducted. But, to the dismay of a number of parents, the district leadership (state administrators) decided not to conduct a search, and instead kept a person on for two years who wasn’t very good. Once again, it wasn’t “Skyline’s” fault.

    That principal’s exit at the very, very end of her second school year, once again, left a situation where only a very rushed principal search could be conducted. When it’s July, and you’re just starting the hunt from scratch, there isn’t much to choose from. As a result, the principal who was selected was not good at all and he only lasted one year. That wasn’t “Skyline’s” fault either.

    By this time it was the the summer when Tony Smith was about ready to start. But the interim superintendent was leaving her position soon and wanted a principal placed before she left. So she tried to push a candidate on Skyline whose total extent of administrative experience was one year as an assistant principal.

    People at the school were wise to reject that candidate and insisted that an experienced interim principal be assigned to Skyline a real search could be finally be done throughout the year. It turned out to be a good decision, because that principal knew exactly what to do to satisfy WASC, who ended up giving Skyline a 3-year accreditation. It’s very likely that would not have happened if the inexperienced candidate had not been rejected by “the school.”

    The search over 2009-10 resulted in Troy Johnston, the current principal who is experienced, enthusiastic, and knows what he’s doing. He also has a group of assistant principals who want to be on his team. But there is no doubt that Johnston did enter a school in disarray, something which was caused by decisions downtown. He’s doing a good job with putting the pieces back together, considering the sad state of the district’s budget and everything else going on.

    Bashing an Oakland school which is doing pretty much about the same as any other similar urban school in the U.S. is totally, totally tiresome.

  • Christopher Scheer

    Can’t Believe It Says,

    We will just have to disagree. Your use of the test scores is itself an example of the kind of almost whimsical judgement of society on such complex institutions. The reason we have no API score posted this year is because of the accusation that one teacher with one class of kids may have let them have access to a textbook for a few minutes while he left the room. Yet somehow that is a sign of a complete failure of a school?

    And 100 kids? Taking all those myriad APs, yes, maybe, but far more than that take some, and do all the other stuff, too — hell, our jazz band won the prestigious Reno competition last year, we put on two musicals, our debate team is a rising power, we have a monthly newspaper, a terrific ceramics program, an Education Academy, a Computer Academy, a Green Academy … I mean, what is this good/bad dichotomy? We are what we are and my point still stands — comparing this to Piedmont or O’Dowd is just silly. Our school is free and you don’t need to live in a pricy area to come here, and that has real value for many.

    As for sports, we hold our own, and better than that in certain sports, such as track. But my point was the opportunities for kids, not whether we are a threat to De La Salle. Many smaller schools simply can’t provide all these activities.

    The reality is, while I have had five principals in four years during my time at Skyline, I have no doubt that the school has grown stronger in that time, somewhat miraculously.

    Of course, when we just cut ONE MILLION DOLLARS out of the school budget (roughly 15%) after several years of smaller cuts, and potentially more cuts this Fall, it is rather astonishing to think we are still a going concern at all.

    Point again is not to whitewash, but to oppose the all-or-nothing magnet elite/dumping ground false dichotomy. Skyline is the largest high school in Oakland, and if folks in the community want to glibly write it off as a “failure factory” based on phony intel, we are in big trouble.

  • Nextset

    If Skyline is regarded as a failure factory it isn’t because of phony intel. OUSD like the rest of public schools has published NCLB statistics broken down by race listing progress or lack thereof. What are the numbers for Skyline? And what is the trend, even if some numbers are missing for a year.

    What is the rate of college and military enrollment for the grads? I douby there are stats on employment for those 2 and 5 years out – but what stats do you have – by race – for Skyline to demonstrate the school isn’t a failure factory?

    And then there’s the issue of the cessation of the counseling staff and other little things about OUSD schools thet tell us these are “schools” in name only. And the deportment issues we seem to have at OUSD “schools”. And so on.

    Sorry, Piedmont, Lowell, and the other public Ivy’s are schools. OUSD High Schools are something else. It’s charming that people are loyal to their factory but facts are facts. We must realize that the schools in Oakland – OUSD – closed long ago leaving us with the factories. That’s the way it is. That’s the way it will remain until people open their eyes and deal with reality. Those that have have taken their children elsewhere – Orinda perhaps.

    Brave New World.

  • Christopher Scheer

    Was thinking about this some more today and realized what bugged me so much about this good/bad dichotomy — and then come back and see Nextset has perfectly echoed it with his school/not school dichotomy.

    Here it is: When you place these schools in a worthwhile vs. worthless context, you implicitly are telling society: You don’t have to care about these schools. You can abandon, defund, ignore, mock these schools full of children and not feel bad about it, because they were “not good” or “not schools.”

    “OUSD High Schools are something else” — this is just ignorant garbage. Even from an elitist “white collar career” point of view, it is just silly; after all, every year I watch students from Skyline go off to MIT, Stanford and Cal. What do those schools see in our students that you can’t?

    Is SF State “not a school” because it is not Harvard? Are the A’s “not a baseball team” because they are not the Yankees? Is asparagus “not a vegetable” because it is not an avocado? Really, this is silly.

    Here is the stark reality: The average public high school in California only graduates 60% of its freshmen, which is about what we do at Skyline. The problems here are the problems of the state, and yes, it is a microcosm. Roll up your sleeves and help us out instead of just bashing.

  • Sue

    Christopher, stand up and take a bow – that was well said.

    I’m incredibly proud of what my 19-y-o Skyline graduate has accomplished in his freshman year of college. And he has autism, received Spec. Ed. supports in all of his mainstream classes at Skyline. Our family had no expectations or plans for him to attend a four-year university, but he got into CSUEB, and he’s thriving there.

    I’m looking forward to my 14-y-o GATE kid starting at Skyline this fall. We’ve been to two welcome/orientations for him, and I think he’ll be challenged and successfully educated over the next four years.

    Nextset (from clues he’s dropped on this blog) seems to have moved from Oakland to Orinda for his children’s education, but it seems to have been a very long time ago. So, I doubt he has any real ideas about what’s going on in any OUSD schools or the quality of the schools based on his own experiences.

    Our family has recent experience with the schools I mentioned as “good” schools above. I know those schools. I’m comfortable talking about the OUSD schools I’m familiar with, and don’t discuss the schools I don’t know. I also don’t discuss other district’s schools (like Orinda for example) because I don’t have any experience with them. But hey, some people like to hear themselves talk so much that they’ll talk about anything, even things they don’t know.

    Just my perspective on the value of Nextset’s views. When he’s telling us about Orinda, it’s probably worth paying attention.

  • make it go away

    Chris: I have lots of experience in a nearby district. I know exactly what I am talking about when it comes to high schools. Skyline is not very good. That is not to say every student is bad, or every teacher or every program. It’s just that we have protocols for judging schools and districts, and Skyline and OUSD are hurting. You cannot dismiss every standard as “whimsical.” And just so you know, the maximum WASC accreditation is SIX years, not the three that Skyline received.

    Ex. 5 principals in 4 years, no posted test scores, AP exam scores not posted due to administrative incompetence. 60% graduation rate of freshmen, etc. It is not enough to say they are the same as the other schools, especially if this is the best OUSD school.

    And although I am an A’s fan, the A’s are a horrible team this year. Hate to use Sara Palin as an example, but this is just “lipstick on a pig.”