May 11, 2005 at 2:56 PM CDT - Updated July 10 at 10:26 PM
Cyber Bullying By: Wes Wallace
A high school freshman keeps his eyes focused on the ground, as he navigates a crowded hallway. "I'm almost there, just a few more feet until I get to homeroom," he thinks to himself.
Then out of nowhere, the school bully runs up and smashes him into the front of a row of lockers.
While this scene plays out in almost every senior high across the country, times have changed, and your typical bully isn't the person they used to be.
New Wave of Bullies
With some high-tech help, almost any student can become a bully.
"This doesn't start as face to face contact, so some kids who might not normally do something like this, do it, because they're safe on their side of the computer," explains Mark Ruark, the Assistant Principal at Cape Central, "At least they think they are," he adds.
The correct term is Cyber bullying. It's where students use emails, text messages, and instant messages for instant intimidation.
"New technology is great, but it really creates a whole new set of problems when it comes to discipline in schools," says Ruark, "We've actually had several cases of cyber-bullying in the last few years."
What Starts at Home, Ends at School
If a student sends a harassing or threatening message from home or outside the school building, there's could be some type of conflict the following day back at school.
"I don't think anyone should bully anybody," says Clayton Hill, a Cape Central Junior, "If you have a problem with someone, you should resolve it face to face, and not send someone a text message."
Unfortunately, Assistant Principal Ruark says that doesn't always happen, so what starts as a written, typed, or text messaged, often ends up with a verbal or physical confrontation.
There's no Missouri law specific to bullying, but Sgt. Barry Hovis with the Cape Girardeau Police Department says cyber-bullying could carry serious consequences.
"If we're called to investigate, we have to find there's been some type of threat, harassment, or assault involved," says Hovis, "so it's harder to prove sometimes, but it's still a very valid concern."
Mark Ruark recommends parents and students following the same steps for fighting back. "Tell someone about it. If you're every threatened, regardless of the means, tell someone. Tell a teacher, your parent, the police, tell someone, " he suggests, "Parents need to keep a close eye on their kids' computer usage. Especially who they're chatting with and what they're saying."