Should schools monitor students' social media? - FOX 13 News

Should schools monitor students' social media?

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TALLAHASSEE (FOX 13) -

This year, Florida enacted a new cyberbullying law hailed as one of the best in the nation.

So why did it not make a difference in the tragic death of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick of Lakeland?

Sedwick was the target of relentless bullying at her Polk County school and on the Internet, according to authorities and her family.

Last month, she climbed a silo and jumped to her death. Her family blames the bullying for her suicide.

Polk County school leaders say they did everything they could to address bullying at school: they separated Sedwick from the bullies and suspended some of them.

Florida's cyberbullying law gives schools more authority to investigate online bullying that happens off campus if the problem interferes with a student's ability to attend school.

That clearly was the case for Sedwick. She tried home-schooling and transferred to another middle school, but the bullying continued online. Polk County schools say they did not know about the cyberbullying.

Now the Florida School Boards Association expects more schools to consider monitoring students' personal Facebook pages and emails.

"You get into some issues of privacy and you get into some issues of how much can you actually monitor," said Wayne Blanton, with the Florida School Boards Association. "I think we're going to try to set up systems around the state where you can intermittently look at some students' emails and things of that nature."

Blanton said implementing that kind of monitoring would be a complex proposition.

"It's a very difficult area to deal with, particularly when you look at the volume of what's out there. We have 2.8 million students in the state of Florida," he said.

Blanton said school are doing everything they can at the moment.

"As long as the students will report their problem to us, we guarantee the student and the parents that action will be taken."

Blanton also maintained that Polk County schools did not know about Sedwick being bullied online.

"That seems to be where things sort of fell through in this particular instance. We've got to know. If the students will report it to us, we guarantee that we will take the proper action. But the students have to report it or the parents have to report it to the proper school authorities," he said.

Blanton said students have to be encouraged to report bullying when they see it.

"We had the same issue a number of years ago about reporting guns on campus and students have done a wonderful job about coming around and learning that reporting a gun on campus is something you have to do. Most of our guns on campuses now are reported by other students. I think we have to get to the same place with our students in the bullying issue. When you see a student being bullied, you have to report it or the students themselves have to report it."

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