Cybertraps: Administrator Responses to Cyberbullying

I’ve been studying Freedom of Speech and Social Media from an school administrator’s point of view.  Cybertraps for Educators by Fredrick Lane is one of my main sources of information and if you’re in education, you should read it.  I’m going to share bits of what I’ve learned over the next few weeks.

Super interesting is that at this point, student speech is far more protected than teacher speech.  If cyberbullying occurs off campus, for the most part it has been considered protected by the First Amendment.  (Well, to clarify, it’s not NOT protected…the key is if it causes a substantial disruption to the school.)  So even if there’s no legal or disciplinary recourse for administrators, a reasonable person should do something about it.

Even with the precedence that off-campus speech is generally protected by the First Amendment, administrators must not ignore known cases of cyberbullying of both students and teachers.  Students may not be able to receive corrective action at the school but other ways exist to combat such events.

First and foremost, the administrator should make sure that the student’s parents are notified if not fully brought alongside to curb the cyberbullying.  Access to technology presents new challenges for parents of the 95% of high school students who own some sort of personal device (Lane, 2015).  Allowing their children to use the phone or iPad without supervision put parents in a precarious situation with the legal system should cyberbullying occur.  Courts have ruled that parents may be liable for emotional suffering caused by their children in cyberbullying situations if they do not take due action to correct the situation (Bloomberg BNA, 2014).  While school may not be an active party, private citizens may sue each other over these cases.

Additionally, administrators should look for spillover to the school setting, even if it is not considered substantially disruptive.  Character-building programs, classroom social interventions, and further targeted behavioral interventions can be used with effect.  Additionally, to address the occurrence before it happens is another approach; bullying is less likely to occur in a school with a positive climate (Wang, 2013).  Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) programs demonstrate success in improving school climate, including the relationships between students and teachers (Wang, 2013).

Is there more that can be done?  Of course.  But certainly parents and PBIS are a good start.



Bloomberg BNA. (2014, October 22). Georgia court rules parents may be liable for child’s fake Facebook account. Retrieved from

Lane, F. (2015). Cybertraps for educators [Kinde 6]. Retrieved from

Wang, C. M. (2013). The critical role of school climate in effective bullying prevention. Theory into Practice, 52(4), 296-302

Do Your Research

Like a bazillion other moms, I’m “in to” essential oils.  I’m a member of the original for-the-masses company and it has been super interesting seeing what’s around on the internet to either build up or discredit that company.  Very little of the negative information comes from research-based arguments; there’s more research on the pro-side but again, not a substantial amount.  People are not making decisions about essential oils based on scientific research.

The same can be said for education at times.  For classroom instruction, publishers push that their products are “research-based” and therefore must be great for learning.  But what research are we talking about?  I get especially leery when a program claims this but then there’s no set way to use the program.  Which part was researched?  By whom?  We want to think that research is performed without bias but we’re human.  Action research, especially, can be affected by the teachers who do it.

What to do?  Well, read, read, read.

Where to start?  Here are two resources that I enjoy browsing;  they’ve done the work for you.

What Works Clearinghouse

The Institute for Education Sciences, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, reviews research about different programs and summarizes the studies.  They do not do original research themselves.  They have a nifty little graphic that shows the possible gains or losses through using the materials.

WWC Saxon

Example of WWC data, this one for Saxon Math at the Middle School level.

Visible Learning

Visible Learning is a meta-study of all sorts of other studies about teaching practices, materials, and environments that impact learning.  John Hattie developed a barometer to reflect the possible growth shown in studies.  It is super interesting:  what is shown to be effective on paper is not necessarily what you would expect.

Teaching practices with the greatest effect size according to Hattie.

Teaching practices with the greatest effect size according to Hattie.

Both of these resources have informed my practice and my students are growing.  What other resources are out there to help teachers make informed instructional decisions?

Twitter Testimony

Every chance I get, I tell educators, “You should be on Twitter.”  But how did I find Twitter and, even more important, decide to start using it?

In August 2011, we had a start of the year inservice where pretty much the whole district showed up for a face-to-face kick off.  It was the first year that we were going to use Discovery Education and they brought up Hall Davidson as the special speaker, one of Discovery Ed’s big wigs.

His talk was a lot of showing us fun things we can do with iPads or Discovery Ed which was all a lot of fun but what stuck with me was when he asked the crowd something like….”How many of you have email?” and every hand went up.  “Okay, how about facebook?” and that was a majority of the room, too.  Then he asked, “And how many of you have a Twitter account?” Now, it was less than 10 percent of the room.  And he replies, “Well, you need to be on Twitter.  So here’s what I’m going to do…I’m going to give you all a Twitter account…on ME!  So jump on and log in and start following other educators and you will see why it is the best thing ever.”  And having previously been on Twitter around the 2008 election season, I thought, why not?

I did and he was right.  Twitter has been an amazing resource for me as I’ve built up my Professional Learning Network over the past three-and-a-half years.  These are educators around the globe that post ideas, articles, blog posts, supportive statements, personal challenges and successes, and they post a lot.  An estimated 4.2 million education-related tweets go out on Twitter each day. (

Twitter is where I discovered Genius Hour and Mystery Skype, two of my favorite classroom learning activities.  I also participate in #edchat when I can (it’s on Tuesdays) where educators discuss different topics like the role of grades in classrooms or the future of textbooks.  Perhaps my favorite use of Twitter is to tweet out during conferences;  it is a way for me to take notes as well as get pertinent ideas out to a larger audience.  What’s the point of hearing something amazing and not sharing it?

Seeing how my educational practice has changed because of this particular social media makes me an ambassador for Twitter.  Give it a shot.  It will work for you and you will take collaboration to a different level or it won’t be all that and you’ll let it fade.  The best part, though? It will be there if you need it.