SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County School District 2 Board of Trustees voted unanimously last night to petition the Wyoming School Board Association to pursue legislation related to cyberbullying.
The request comes in the aftermath of a situation at Sheridan High School in October in which a Facebook page was created that allowed users to anonymously post obscene, graphic and sometimes threatening statements about students.
“We have spoken often about the harmful effects of bullying in our schools and community,” said Trustee Rich Bridger, who sponsored the resolution, in a memo to other trustees.
“Now, it appears that electronic forms of bullying have advanced beyond our ability to enforce legal controls on it,” he added. “I would like your support in taking the following resolution to WSBA for formal adoption…”
The resolution reads, “Be it resolved: The Wyoming School Boards Association supports amending existing legislation to provide law enforcement the ability to intervene whenever any communication is transmitted, whether physical, electronic, or verbal occurs with the intent to coerce, demoralize, harass, or cause emotional distress to a person.”
Bridger will present the resolution to the WSBA at their annual meeting later this month.
During last night’s meeting, Trustee Molly Steel voiced her support for the resolution, saying she had visited the Facebook page in question and found it disturbing.
“I agree strongly with Rich’s resolution,” she said before the vote. “I read most of those things on Facebook and I’ve never been so embarrassed, humiliated and concerned for the students, because those things stay on a record forever. It was pretty astonishing.”
Trustee Erica O’Dell asked Bridger how pursuing legislation on the issue might affect free speech and exactly what law enforcement officials would be doing to pursue administrators of offending websites.
Bridger responded that he did not have specific wording or actions in mind, but hoped that the Legislature would come up with appropriate legal language and a plan of action.
“As a result of the Sheridan High School confessions page I became very aware what a school or district could do to track down the anonymous administrators of those sites,” he said. “I just want to come up with some sort of legal jargon. I want to give law enforcement the ability, if they have a reason, they can go back to Facebook and find out who the administrator is or track it back so someone can’t remain anonymous.”
He also noted that he understood her concern with free speech, but felt that more should be done to pursue and remove websites such as the one that caused such disruption to the school a few weeks ago.
“I understand free speech too, but my take on it is you lose that ability to have free speech when you put out these anonymous blurbs you don’t have the courage to sign your name to,” he said.
In other business, the board heard from Tom Sachse, assistant superintendent for curriculum and assessment, who reported that in the pilot stage of the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act, Phase One, several SCSD 2 schools were rated as meeting or exceeding expectations.
Sheridan Junior High School and Highland Park Elementary were ranked as “exceeding expectations” and Henry A. Coffeen, Sagebrush, Meadowlark and Woodland Park elementary schools and Sheridan High School ranked as “meeting expectations.”
Additionally, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Human Resources Terry Burgess formally recognized and congratulated Fort Mackenzie High School teacher Mick Wiest for being awarded Wyoming Teacher of the Year.