Cyberbullying

ENID, Okla. — Most teens and young adults are users of electronic devices to access their networks, apps and social media.

With increased access to social media comes increased potential for threats such as cyberbullying.

Until recently, cyberbullying was not something Enid Police Department often investigated. But, updates to state laws could mean more instances of cyberbullying will fall under police jurisdiction.

SnapChat group incident

Earlier this week, Enid High School officials announced the district had taken disciplinary action against a group of students for an incident of cyberbullying involving the app SnapChat and use of racist and threatening language.

EHS Principal Dudley Darrow notified parents of the situation via email.

“On Friday (Aug. 30, 2019), a student made EHS administrators aware of a SnapChat group that included racially inappropriate and threatening language,” Darrow said. “The threat did not mention the school nor was it school-related, but it was disturbing and concerning. We took the matter extremely seriously and began working immediately with local law enforcement to address the situation.”

On Sept. 3, 2019, the Oklahoma State Conference National Asso­ciation for the Advancement of Colored People called for an “immediate and transparent” investigation regarding the EHS incident.

According to the NAACP, individuals including Enid High School students created a group Snapchat labeled “Jiggaboos,” a racial slur, at about 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 28, when they were not at school. During the SnapChat session, group members encourage one to “just type it” at which point he responded “let all (N-word) die.”

Sgt. Nick John said the incident is being actively investigated and remains under investigation.

From bullying to cyberbullying

Enid High sophomore Mia Dunlap, who was invited to join the SnapChat group in which the language was used, said those who were using the language had bullied her before. She said it began when the same students were using racist language with another student, whom she began to defend.

Dunlap, who is biracial, said she changed the table where she ate lunch, but the bullying continued this year.

“Usually, they would say stuff to me in person. I don’t have any of these people on social media,” she said. “There was some people in there that I did have on SnapChat, so that was the first time I was ever put into this type of situation with all of this.”

Dunlap said she confided what she saw to her older brother, a senior at EHS, and added him to the SnapChat group. She said she discussed with him what to do, deciding on reporting it to the school’s administration.

“If I don’t say something,” she said, “there may be no one to say something.”

Dunlap said she and her brother reported the SnapChat conversation and later that day were interviewed at the Enid Police Department by a detective.

She said when the bullying first began, she was in shock.

“At first, whenever ------ would first come up and say stuff, I was kind of in shock,” she said. “Is he really looking at me and saying these words? My first reaction was like, ‘Wow, he really doesn’t care.’ Of course, I was angry.”

Dunlap said the comments being made in person and going online prevented any respite from the bullying.

“Over the summer, I didn’t have to talk to them or deal with them. Then I get added to this group chat, and it’s just like I can’t get away from them. No matter what. It happened late at night, and I’m trying do homework and go to bed. It’s just nonstop.”

Dunlap’s aunt, Maria Eaves, said the family is proud of the sophomore for taking a stand.

“Our family is extremely proud of Mia. She is courageous to come forward and tell her story,” she said. “One of the reasons she wants to tell her story is to let people know they are not alone. Since her story has been made public, I have received several messages from several parents who have reached out to me expressing their children have gone though similar circumstances. There’s a lot of kids and parents that are hurting.

“If people aren’t aware of what’s going on, we can’t address the problem,” she said. “I think it’s helpful to have discourse on this subject. It’s helpful for people going through similar circumstances to know they are not going through this alone.

“Maybe, also, they will speak out. It’s only then we’re able to achieve full accountability.”

EPS Cyberbullying Policy

EPS executive director of HR and communications Amber Graham Fitzgerald said students are taught appropriate online behavior.

“We provide lessons each year about acceptable uses of technology, digital etiquette and the dangers of cyberbullying and other online activities,” Fitzgerald said. “It is important that they learn how to properly interact with others in person and online. School officials and parents must continue to work together to ensure that students are using technology to be productive and to socialize appropriately, not to be harmful to others.”

She said the lessons come from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that provides education and advocacy to families to promote safe technology and media for children. She said the site, www.commonsensemedia.org/, also includes resources for parents.

Enid Public Schools’ internet and other computer networks acceptable use policy includes a portion about cyberbullying.

“Any form of harassment using electronic devices, commonly known as Cyberbullying, by board members, students, staff, or patrons is prohibited and will not be tolerated in the district.”

It defines the act as, “... the use of any electronic communication device to convey a message in any form (text, image, audio, or video) that defames, intimidates, harasses, or is otherwise intended to harm, insult, or humiliate another in a deliberate, repeated, or hostile and unwanted manner under a person’s true or false identity. In addition, any communication of this form that disrupts or prevents a safe and positive educational or working environment may also be considered Cyberbullying.

“Board members, students, staff and patrons will refrain from using personal communication devices or district property to harass or stalk another. The district will take any report of Cyberbullying seriously and will investigate credible reports promptly. Students are encouraged to report an incident immediately to a teacher or principal.

“Students who make a report are requested to preserve evidence of Cyberbullying. For example, a student may save or bring a copy of an email, text message, picture or other electronic transmission that the student believes was intended to harm, insult or humiliate.

“Staff will take appropriate action and will bring it to the attention of the principal when students report an incident of Cyberbullying. Staff will attempt to preserve evidence of the Cyberbullying and will submit any evidence to the principal.”

The policy also includes the punishment for such behavior.

“The district may revoke the privilege of board members, students, staff or patrons who use district equipment or electronic communication system to engage in Cyberbullying, The district may revoke the privilege of any board members, students, staff or patrons who use a personal communication device to engage in Cyberbullying, to bring any personal communication device on district property or district-sponsored activities.”

The policy includes a portion titled “netiquette,” a combination of network and etiquette, and is defined as a set of rules for acceptable online behavior.

A portion of that section includes, “Avoid language and uses which may be offensive to other users. Don’t use access to make, distribute, or redistribute jokes, stories or other material which is based upon slurs or stereotypes relating to race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion or sexual orientation.”

Updating laws

Effective Nov. 1, 2019, a state law will go into effect concerning obscenity, threats, or harassment by telephone or other electronic communication.

The updated law will make it unlawful for anyone to use a telecommunication or other electronic communication device to:

1. Makes any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent;

2. Makes a telecommunication or other electronic communication including text, sound or images with intent to terrify, intimidate or harass, or threaten to inflict injury or physical harm to any person or property of that person;

3. Makes a telecommunication or other electronic communication, whether or not conversation ensues, with intent to put the party called in fear of physical harm or death;

4. Makes a telecommunication or other electronic communication, including text, sound or images whether or not conversation ensues, without disclosing the identity of the person making the call or communication and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person at the called number;

5. Knowingly permits any telecommunication or other electronic communication under the control of the person to be used for any purpose prohibited by this section; and

6. In conspiracy or concerted action with other persons, makes repeated calls or electronic communications or simultaneous calls or electronic communications solely to harass any person at the called number(s).

A first offense conviction is a misdemeanor. Any second or subsequent offense is a felony.

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Rains is police and court reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @cassrains.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Cass? Send an email to crains@enidnews.com.

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