Students caution legislators on cyberbullying issues

SHERIDAN — Sheridan Junior Councilman Tyler Julian presented to City Council at its meeting Monday about the issue of cyberbullying in an effort to represent the interests of high school students in the issue and how it is addressed.

Julian informed Council members of a recent meeting held by Sheridan High School student councilors with Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, to open the discussion about cyberbullying and urge balance between protection for those who are bullied and protection of student privacy rights in any legislation that may be drafted in coming years.

Julian said local and state officials need to keep in mind a few key discussion points when considering the topic of cyberbullying. He said definitions of what, exactly, constitutes cyberbullying need to be clear and enforcable. The role of law enforcement and other forms of punishment needs to be defined. Parents should be encouraged to be the first defense against cyberbullying by talking with their children about their online life and encouraging respect in use of social media.

“Kids aren’t afraid to talk if you’ll talk to them about these things,” Julian said.

Another big concern held by SHS students is how much the school system will be allowed to control their private, out-of-school lives if legislation is drafted that allows school monitoring — and school punishment of infractions — on sites like Facebook.

Julian, who was joined by two other student councilors in his presentation, said the students took an informal survey on the issue of cyberbullying. It found that 28 percent of students reported being cyberbullied, 43 percent said they had never been cyberbullied, and 57 percent of respondents said they knew someone who had been bullied, indicating that students realize there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Julian said he’d like to see local and state officials keep the issue of cyberbullying in front of them while taking time to consider the needs and concerns of the youth who could be affected by any legislation. He urged councilors to look at legislation passed in Colorado that will implement education about technology and online use beginning in Kindergarten.

In other business, SHS teacher Tyson Emborg presented to the council about the recent state win for SHS “We the People” participants that will send them to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national academic competition in April.

Emborg said the group is in the process of raising funds to get the team to D.C. It needs $36,202 total and has raised nearly $20,000 to date. Anyone who would like to donate to the “We the People” team should call Emborg at the high school at 672-2495.

The team will hold a dress rehearsal for the public to attend in April.

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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