As I read some of the stories about victims of bullying, I was struck by a common refrain of parents after the bullying was discovered. The focus was often on what the school should have done or could be doing. In particular, this line in a story really struck me, “the bully prevention law we spearheaded in Vermont that holds schools accountable [emphasis added] for preventing and responding to bullying.” This troubles me, not because I don’t think there is a value to educating students about cyberbullying but because I think it’s foolhardy to place the responsibility for monitoring and preventing it on schools when they have limited ability to prevent the activity.
While it is likely that much bullying (online or in-person) happens as result of relationships established in the school environment, schools have limited ability to control what happens outside the school environment–and rightfully so. Parents and guardians need to be expected and empowered to get involved in their children’s lives. If they are allowed–like has happened with so many parental responsibilities that have been dumped on teachers–to relinquish that responsibility to schools, there will be less and less that can be done. At the same time, since it is easier to pass laws aimed at schools, more and more laws will be passed and parents will be more disengaged.