A bill has been introduced in the Arizona Legislature that addresses bullying and harassment through electronic means on campus or through school property.
House Bill 2580, titled the Arizona Safe Schools Act of 2011, would require schools to adopt a policy that prohibits students from bullying other students through electronic communications "on school grounds, on school property, on school buses, at school bus stops and at school-sponsored events and activities, and on school computers, networks, forums, and mailing lists..."
The adopted policies would allow students to report acts of bullying confidentially and also offer a procedure for parents to submit written reports of bullying. The bill also requires school district employees to "report suspected incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying to the appropriate school official."
HB 2580 also defines bullying and harassment to include actions made based on a student's race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or disability.
"Singling students out based on their sexual orientation or race can lead to isolation and withdrawal from school activities," said Sam Holdren, spokesperson for Equality Arizona, who worked with the bill's sponsors, Rep. Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) and Sen. David Schapira (D-Tempe).
Cyberbullying has come to national attention in recent years due to cases in which students committed suicide after being bullied. Carl Walker-Hoover of Springfield, Mass., took his own life on April 6, 2009, and Jaheem Herrera of DeKalb County, Ga., took his own life on April 16, 2009.
"When you think of bullying, you think of physical aggression and behavior but it's not just that," Hobbs said. "It's evident that verbal actions and harassing can be just as consequential."
A Kyrene School District principal instituted a method for anonymous electronic reporting. Ev Michell, principal at Kyrene Centennial Middle School, created a section on the school's website, called Silent Witness, to allow students to report instances of all forms of bullying.
"It has helped us curb a lot of bullying on campus," she said. "What happens on the outside, bullying on Facebook or through text messaging, always comes back to school."
Depending of the verity of reported situations, parents will be contacted, and they can communicate with the school's resource officer.
"A lot of times parents think that everything is OK," Michell said. "They don't monitor their child's Facebook and they only discover something is wrong when the child starts crying or gets upset."