Student Presses Lawmakers To Pass Cyber Bullying Bill

A local student is asking state lawmakers to pass a bill dealing with cyber bullying before a tragedy occurs.

A bill being considered at the state Capitol would require districts to upgrade bullying plans to include cyber bullying so that incidents are tracked and reported.

In 2010, school districts across the state were required to adopt policies prohibiting bullying and outlining how they’d deal with incidents. But one student said that isn’t enough because bullying is happening off school grounds and online.

Clinton High School Junior Janelle Taylor continues to share happy photos on Facebook, despite uncovering the ugly side of social media. In eighth grade, classmates hacked her MySpace page.

“They changed it all and said things about the way I looked or dressed and my sexuality and things like that, and they posted lewd or crude photos,” said Taylor.

Taylor said she went to school the next day afraid, and one of the girls involved in the hacking punched her in the face.

“I went to my principal and the girl got in trouble for hitting me, but there was nothing my principal could have done about the cyber bullying that happened because there’s no policies in schools,” said Taylor.

“I felt helpless really,” said Teresa Taylor, Janelle’s mother. “All I could do was teach her forgiveness and compassion, and use it as a life lesson as this is not the way we behave.”

Teresa said she was proud when Janelle decided to write Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, saying that things needed to change.

“It hurts,” said Janelle Taylor. “You try to ignore it but after you hear something so many times you start to believe it. Even if you are a strong person, it hurts.”

“We have an anti-bullying statute but it isn’t specific about cyber bullying,” Cullen said.

Cullen’s bill would require school districts to have policies on cyber bullying, which may happen off school grounds.

“It has ramifications on school grounds because the student doesn’t want to go there, they feel intimidated and threatened,” said Cullen.

But not everyone believes the state needs to intervene.

“I’m always reluctant to have a bunch of bureaucrats from the Department of Public Instruction, who do not have their feet on the ground so to speak telling local school districts what to do,” said Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend.

The Taylors said schools need to be told to address a form of bullying that students can’t escape.

“At school, someone can come bully me and I can walk away,” said Janelle Taylor. “But when it’s on my phone or on my computer, I can’t get away from that.”

Cullen’s bill doesn’t not require a specific cyber bullying policy, just that districts have one.

Taylor is asking lawmakers to pass the bill now. She said she’s afraid that like some other states Wisconsin will wait for a cyber-bullying tragedy before passing a law to require a policy.