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October 4, 2012

MCS hosts presentations on 'Dignity'

(Continued)

Milford —

Allen explained that schools do not have to address cyberbullying under the Dignity Act until next summer.

"There is a lot of complications with all of this, particularly around sexting, when students start sending pictures (often nude) back and forth to one another," Allen said.

Another factor, according to Allen, is a student's age.

"What is happening in some places is that kids have been labeled sex offenders because they have passed child pornography around and that is what it ends up being about," she said.

First Amendment freedom of speech rights make things even more complicated, according to Allen. She said there have been several court cases that have gone all the way to the Supreme Court that challenge the schools' ability to regulate free speech of students. Outcomes seem to be determined based on whether or not the communication is "substantially interrupting the learning environment," Allen explained.

For example, Allen said a court ruled in favor of a boy who started a website that posted bad things about his principal. Allen said the judge determined it was obnoxious speech, but free speech,and that actions taken by the school would be more disruptive to learning than the actions of the student.

"There are all kinds of constitutional issues here," he said."There is freedom of speech versus freedom to come to school."

Allen went over signs that a student is being bullied, but cautioned that they are also signs of stress. Signs include symptoms of depression, an increase in trips to the nurse (vomiting or headaches that aren't accompanied by a fever or other flue symptoms), bouts of anger or other emotional outbursts, refusal to associate with someone or appearing afraid of someone, avoidance of particular places in school, missing items, a drop in grades and a lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed. Allen said there are different forms of bullying such as physical, verbal, visual and social-relational.

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