Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cyberbullies Beware

 APD officers Matt Frydrk (left) Marcus Humber (center)

The Amherst Police Department let it be known to a crowd of perhaps 30 last night at an Amherst Regional High School presentation that they take very seriously the issue of cyberbullying among our youth. 

Problem is of course it's hard to prove when the line between First Amendment run-of-the-mill child bickering crosses over into criminal territory.  Officers did admit that they have over the past five or six years investigated 6 or 7 cases, but they "didn't go anywhere."

But I'm fairly sure that the kid who had a uniformed officer questioning them about inappropriate behavior with a peer probably thought twice about repeating that inappropriate behavior. 

The problem with bullying of the cyber kind is it no longer requires geographic proximity.  The all powerful Internet is always on, and when a child wakes up in the morning that nasty remark is right there in their face.

Officers suggested (although my child seemed to be the only youngster in attendance) that you not engage with the bully because that is exactly what they want.  Take a screen shot or print out the nasty remark, and when it happens three times, that shows a pattern.  Report it to school authorities and/or the police.

In fact, after the terrible tragedy in South Hadley the State passed a law requiring schools to report incidents of bullying to the local police department; and APD will even take those complaints via an online reporting system that goes directly to Detective Dave Foster.

It also helps of course if parents/guardians demonstrate a little oversight on what websites their child visits and how much time they spend on the Internet.


Dr. Ed said...

Larry the last bullet caught my attention -- "anyone is accused of an illegal act." Hmmmm....

What's the name of that Detective again????

Am I also correct in my presumption that a certain bullied young man still isn't permitted to attend ARHS, regardless of the justification? I'd be inclined to call that "expulsion" and I believe that the DESE would be so inclined as well...

Larry Kelley said...

Since the suspension was for 12 days, pretty safe bet he's not back in school.

And I do wonder if school authorities contacted APD on Wednesday, January 15 when the father first reported the bullying incident; or even on Friday January 17 when he reported the second incident.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I'll have to call the APD and see if they ever received the reports on my son. He has been bullied and at least once physically assaulted in the Amherst Schools. All have been reported to the school but I'd bet none have been past on to APD. I unfortunately don't think this will change much for every time the town pulls a "Cloak and Dagger" all they have to do is call a "Special Meeting" closed door session. I'm at the point that I think I may have to tell my son it's a matter self preservation and the next kid that attacks him to swing hard and fast. I think he has more than did his share of turning the other cheek and then some.

Dr. Ed said...

And I do wonder if school authorities contacted APD

I believe that all police logs are public information -- the APD ought to be able to tell you if they were or were not contacted by an ARHS official (as mandated by DESE regulation) on a specific date -- and as the district is discussing this matter in letters sent home to parents, I would argue that this is a fact that the public has a need to know.

For that matter, an inquiry to DESE would inherently get an interesting reply -- even if they tell you they can't tell you, they are admitting that they now are aware of the fact that they should have been told, and if they weren't, "CYA" requires them to pursue it.


I'm assuming that your 12 day suspension is accurate information, but I believe Team Maria is still going with some vague "pending the investigation" statement.

That, arguably, becomes a SPED placement which would create a mandate for the district to do things to ensure a FAPE (Free & Appropriate Public Education), not to mention both parental involvement in the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and some scintilla of respect for the concept of "least restrictive environment" as well.

I doubt that Team Maria has done any of this -- and as this is now Day #10, tomorrow crosses the threshold into a completely different legal realm as well.

Long-term indeterminate-length suspension pending an investigation into if there were grounds to suspend him in the first place?!? I'm awfully glad I'm not an Amherst taxpayer because this is a trial lawyer's wet dream...

Can you say "Suparnova"?

Dr. Ed said...

I'm at the point that I think I may have to tell my son it's a matter self preservation and the next kid that attacks him to swing hard and fast.

I might go have a chat with Bill Nagle over in Belchertown -- he's the Clerk Magistrate and I'd ask about the possibility of getting a restraining order.

I might also contact The Department of Elementary & Secondary Education -- "District & School Accountability" and the Commissioner's Office come to mind -- although there is nothing wrong with calling every phone number there and asking whom you should talk to.

I'd also give both Ellen Story & Stan Rosenberg a phone call. That's what they are there for.

Oh, and yes, call the APD. Follow it up with either an email or snail mail note that summarizes your issue. Have a paper trail -- you may be damn glad you did...

Dr. Ed said...

I would be very surprised to learn that they can discuss a child without the parent having a right to be there.

As to their "special meetings", there is an interesting aspect of section 21(a)(1) of the public meeting law:

If an executive session is held (to discuss a specific individual), such individual shall have the following rights:

i. to be present at such executive session during deliberations which involve that individual;
ii. to have counsel or a representative of his own choosing present and attending for the purpose of advising the individual and not for the purpose of active participation in the executive session;
iii. to speak on his own behalf; and
iv. to cause an independent record to be created of said executive session by audio-recording or transcription, at the individual's expense.

See http://www.mass.gov/ago/government-resources/open-meeting-law/open-meeting-law-mgl-c-30a-18-25.html#Executive_Sessions

Anonymous said...

Stop cuddling your kids and give them some balls for Christ's sake. A bunch of pussys. What happens when your kid get older? They'll never make it in life. Everything now is always tell someone if someone does this or tell someone if someone does that. A bunch of babies bringing up babies.

Anonymous said...

Ironic (see also Pot, Kettle, Calling...).

Anonymous said...

An anonymous poster telling us to "give them some balls".......hmmmmmm

Anybody see some irony in that?

Dr. Ed said...

Stop cuddling your kids and give them some balls for Christ's sake. A bunch of pussys. What happens when your kid get older?

I was never prouder of any group of young adults than I was of the Minuteman Staff/Republican club who didn't beat the shite out of some a-holes who very much deserved it -- who didn't regain possession of their stolen property via brute force and violence.

When these kids get older, it will either be (a) let the police deal with things or (b) go kill the aholes yourself -- which would we prefer to see as members of society???

Folks, I'm from a place where police officers are not allowed to be (for any reason) after dark -- I know where this stuff goes and it ain't pretty.

No you really want to be a (whatever) and go thorough the authorities. Otherwise, you inevitably wind up with bullets flying around and that ain't a whole lot of fun...