PLYMOUTH — How does a school combat cyber bullying not on school grounds or that has been posted on social media not during the school day?
That’s what the Plymouth Community School Corporation has had to handle this week. While no specific names were targeted online, several students used Twitter and Facebook to verbally battle against a comment made regarding another student’s weight.
“We do have a policy on bullying,” said Plymouth High School Principal Jim Condon. “We have tried to address bullying with students and they can report anonymously, and we have worked with the student council officers on ways we can handle bullying. There are strategies in place to decrease bullying and be more proactive, and we have made a lot of progress with it.”
In this instance, the students’ parents were informed, but other students, like Krystal Hardy, says more should be done. She received a one-day in-school suspension, she said, because she refused to follow the administration’s directives when a group of students quietly protested what she felt was a case that had not been properly taken care of.
Hardy said a friend “was devastated to find tweets on Twitter from fellow classmates pertaining to her body, stating she is ‘obese’… going on and going on.”
She said, “This sent her world upside down. She was talking about suicide and not wanting to come back to school.”
Hardy understands why the school took no action— since the cyber bullying didn’t take place at school — but she is not happy with that decision.
“The first thing they could not stress enough to us this year was no bullying, of any kind,” she said. “So, a number of my friends and I decided we would take action, creating T-shirts that had the bullied individual’s name on the front, and mine said ‘Bullying = Not Cool’ on the back.”
Krystal and her friends wore the shirts to school the day of the Homecoming pep rally.
According to the 16-year-old, the school administrators felt the shirts would cause disruption at the end-of-school rally, even though she said the shirts had been worn throughout the school day.
“We felt they were going to be disruptive and take the focus off of the assembly itself,” Condon affirmed, adding, “We felt the displays were going to make or could have an adverse effect.”
Wearing the shirts to the rally anyway, the students were approached by administration who then asked them if they understood the consequences.
One administrator removed a student’s sign that read: “A word to define your body, BEAUTIFUL,” Hardy said, and asked repeatedly for the students to leave the school.
“None of us listened because we did not understand what we did wrong,” she said. “We moved to our student section where he came back and told us we were to leave now. My fellow students ended up leaving, although I did not. They said we could not do this, that we can’t have this attention on our school. If they would have done something about this in the first place, there wouldn’t be attention brought upon our school. This school is hypocritical and unfair.”
Condon said, “The shirts they chose to wear at the time could have been disruptive in the school hallways.”
“I believe that these students didn’t get in any trouble simply because of who they are,” Hardy said. “No one deserves to be treated like this, especially someone as sweet and innocent as this one. People strive every day to gain approval from others, just to be shut down by ignorant people that think they’re better than everyone else. I just really believe something should be done about this or at least something should be said.”