The Smyrna Board of Education will vote on the second reading of a cyberbullying policy at the June school board meeting. The school board passed the first reading of the policy at their May 15 meeting, but several members wanted to look further into the policy.

Assistant Superintendent Patrik Williams said the board is voting on the measure as it is being mandated by the state.

"John Sadowski from the Department of Education provided district's with the new regulation verbatim and encouraged us to adopt it with the specific language with the existing bullying policy," Williams said.

A state mandate

The state released a press release in March explaining the measure was done as a collaboration between the Department of Education and the Department of Justice. Attorney General Beau Biden and Lt. Gov. Matt Denn had met last year with superintendents and held several public hearings to gather evidence due to the growing concern of cyberbullying incidents. Senate Bill 193 was passed into law in 2012, which directed DOE and DOJ to develop a uniform policy. The policy allows the Attorney General's office to defend schools that face a legal challenge after implementing the policy, according to the release.

"Along with the dramatic increase in electronic messaging and social networking among kids, there has been an explosion of cyberbullying in schools across our state," Biden said in the release. "This new statewide cyberbullying policy is a common-sense tool to help schools and law enforcement better protect kids by recognizing the prevalence of online communication, the damaging effect it has on students who are victimized, and the significant disruption is causes to our schools."

The policy was put into effect in March; the state gave school districts 90 days to adopt it.

Proposed cyberbullying regulations

Under the policy, once the district approves it, the district will prohibit cyberbullying by students directed at other students. The district will be directed to treat cyberbullying in the saw way it treats bullying incidents. The policy defines cyberbullying as an electronic communication directed at an identifiable student or group of students that interferes with a student's physical well-being; is threatening or intimidating; or is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it is reasonably likely to limit a student's ability to participate in or benefit from the education programs of the school.

Williams said under the new policy it doesn't matter where the cyberbullying incidents take place; the incident doesn't need to occur in a school building or on school equipment.

Currently, Williams said the district moves forward with a cyberbullying allegation if the incident happens at school and has an impact on the student.

Williams said the district is right up against the 90-day deadline to pass the policy, but a second reading is scheduled to be on the agenda for the Wednesday, June 19 board meeting.

"If it's passed, it will become policy," Williams said.

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