Schools Taking Cyberbullying Seriously

ELLSWORTH — The messages are as brutal as they are succinct:

“You’re an ugly ho.”

“You’re fat.”

“You’re dirty.”

“You’re ugly.”

“Nobody likes you, you might as well kill yourself.”

The words are sent by text, e-mail, instant message, posted on a Facebook wall or whispered loudly while passing in a school hallway.

Nationally, bullying is believed to have been the underlying cause of several teen suicides.

Two young Hancock County teens tearfully described their ordeal in a recent interview.

One, a new student, says she is being bullied by her more established peers. Her friend is being bullied for being her friend.

They say the comments made verbally or on Facebook attack their appearance, their alleged sexual behavior and their popularity.

“They’ll bump against me in the hallway and say, ‘Whore, slut, bitch, and then gag,’” said one of the girls.

On Facebook, she said, “they would always tell me to go kill myself.”

She has since blocked certain girls from being able to post to her Facebook page and instituted a similar block for text messages on her cell phone, but said the verbal harassment has now escalated.

“Every day it’s, ‘What’s going to happen to me today?’ I feel like a nobody, like nobody wants me.”

School administrators say the bullying most often happens between girls, although boys are not immune.

Although bullying is as old as mankind, April Clifford, director of technology for Regional School Unit 24, said cyberbullying is in a realm of its own because the messages — particularly those posted on social networking sites — can be seen by thousands of people rather than a single individual or a small group.

Another difference is the protective strategy required to deal with it.

“It takes a different set of skills to stand up to someone in person than online,” Clifford said.

For more education news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

Jacqueline Weaver

Jacqueline Weaver

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.[email protected]
Jacqueline Weaver

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