A student at Arundel High School in Maryland posted an essay online about her experience of being bullied. The 500 word story on Reddit claimed that she had received death threats from the bully, but that the school had done nothing and she was now considering suicide as her only means of escape. The posting went viral, as Reddit stories sometimes do, and the school received numerous emails asking why the problem wasn’t being handled.
According to ‘Sarah’, the mystery girl involved the school has now stepped in and suspended the bully.
School administrators later alerted county police of a harassment allegation involving a female student. A two-day investigation followed, police spokesman Justin Mulcahy said. On March 16, officers arrested the 17-year-old boy and charged him as a juvenile with harassment. He was later released to his family.
One classmate of hers tried to reply on Reddit that they had no idea of what was happening and Sarah should have talked to classmates before overreacting and whipping up a thousand strong mob of angry protestors online. This post was later deleted after complaints from Reddit users giving it negative votes.
While the outcome for Sarah is undoubtedly positive, the facts are still largely unknown and the actual truth has become lost in a social media lynching. While it’s likely that she was being bullied and administrators failed her in their initial non-response to the situation, if the alleged bully was innocent the result is somewhat scary and a warning for schools of the potential issues they face in the future from the increased use of social media amongst their students.
The focus on students become techno-literate by eighth grade is certainly beneficial to all concerned but the online sphere is a new area to many teachers and administrators and some children will be much more cognizant of its rules and abuses than those in charge, the potential for manipulation of authority figures by savvy children has never been higher.
Last year, the Board of Education changed its policy to include cyber bullying. Some county school administrators have been critical of social media use by students, dismissing it as gossip. County schools are working on guidelines for students, but schools spokesman Bob Mosier said there is an awareness of First Amendment rights.