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Cyber Bullying Courageous Conversation Coming to Dublin High School on March 14

March 11, 2013

Alameda County Court House

The subjects of bullying and cyber bullying on some of our younger citizens have made national headlines in recent years. Unfortunately, some of these negative activities have led to cases that have varied from detachment from school, depression, self-mutilation and most tragically, suicide.

These incidents do not discriminate – they cut across all ages, genders, races and geography. The classic definition of bullying is to use browbeating language or behavior. Whether on the schoolyard or in the workplace, this can generally be identified and be responded to. In a modern society, there is no justification for this type of behavior. But our current society now includes advanced technology and access that simply did not exist 20 or 30 years ago. Access to the Internet, the relative low cost of cellular phones and multiple social media platforms have transformed cyber bullying into a very complex realm.

In an effort to bring this subject to the forefront for students and families alike, the Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) will be hosting a panel discussion at the Dublin High School Student Union on Thursday, March 14 at 6:30 PM. This event will be the third and final installment in the discussion series titled Courageous Conversations.

In advance of this program, OneDublin.org reached out to one of the four panelists, Alameda County Assistant District Attorney, Teresa Drenick. Ms. Drenick completed her B.A in American Government at Georgetown University. Subsequently, she attained her J.D at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. She has been employed at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office since 1991. In the last ten years, Teresa has spearheaded the Truancy program for the office. This responsibility has frequently crossed between both the juvenile and adult legal systems. Her participation in the presentation at Dublin High School is partially due to the fact that the Alameda County DA office supports an active Speakers Program. Scores of her attorney colleagues volunteer their time in community outreach and to support events, such as this event.

OneDublin.org: What has been your association with DUSD and why are you passionate about this topic?

Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Teresa Drenick

Teresa Drenick: “I’ve worked with the Dublin Unified School District for about 10 years. One of the focal points has been on the matter of absenteeism. As an outgrowth of this ongoing work, my colleagues and I became aware of making the connection between a student staying away from school and the relation to them not feeling that it was a safe place. If a particular student was being teased or ostracized, a natural reaction would be to avoid that environment. This phenomenon occurs in virtually every community in the Bay Area.”

OneDublin.org: So, the advancements of technology have changed the very essence of how an individual or group may select to target a student. What changes have you seen in this area over the past decade?

Drenick: “The evolution over the past ten years has been like night and day. I pinpoint this to the accessibility, affordability and the speed of technology and communications. It is the ‘omnipresence’ of avenues to push one’s thoughts out onto the Internet. In order to maintain our pace with progress, we’ll have to continue to keep ourselves educated and aware as possible as technology changes and new platforms arise.”

OneDublin.org: For youths that are indicted for perpetrating cyber bullying, what are the consequences?

Drenick: “In the juvenile court system, the penalties have a very wide range. These adjudications are issued by a judge, not by a jury. The consequences can range from probation, to community service and up to incarceration. An offender can be assigned to regular check-ins with a probation officer. Lesser offenses can result in a misdemeanor charge. But a more threatening charge or extortion attempt can result in a felony designation.”

In order to understand the District’s role in forwarding communication out to the community, OneDublin.org visited with Ms. Tess Johnson, Coordinator of Student Services. Ms. Johnson has been responsible for leading the Wellness Committee for all K-12 education in DUSD. Under the umbrella of the District of Vision 20/20, Tess has led three initiatives under this directive which include: Social/Emotional Health, Physical Well-Being and Nutritional Guidelines. Passed into law, Assembly Bill 9 requires all California school districts to formalize protocols and procedures in order to uniformly address bullying complaints. Ms. Johnson regularly meets with colleagues at the County level to compare/contrast best practices. While the issue of bullying has been present for many years, there was an imminent need to formalize a response and process system to response to a complaint.

OneDublin.org: Why is the subject of addressing cyber bullying important for our students?

Dublin Unified School District Coordinator of Student Services Tess Johnson

Tess Johnson: “Principally, it gets in the way of academic success. We needed to recognize that this is occurring and that we cannot hide from it. Further, with the passage of AB9, there are clear legal ramifications for anyone involved.”

OneDublin.org: Help our readers understand the primary categories of bullying or cyber bullying that are prevalent today.

Johnson: “There are three areas that continue to be present. A) There is the obvious/overt bully that picks out a victim and perpetrates this behavior. This is often done publicly and can be witnessed by others. B) There may be a group of young people that are friends and may have grown up together. However, the dynamic within the group can change over time where the outward or online teasing of an individual can rise up. This teasing can be direct and/or can be a product of online expressions. The victim is obviously confused. But, this may become the evolving ‘culture’ of this particular group where teasing somehow becomes acceptable. C) The last category is the most insidious. If you think of the film ‘Mean Girls’, a popular group of students was led by one character. However, her character did not personally enact the attacks. Rather, she had her followers insinuate and initiate the negative activity. In this way, she became temporarily immune to being accused of calculating this bullying effort.”

OneDublin.org supports the concept of providing a public platform to discuss this subject and to provide subject-matter experts to share their views. The Courageous Conversations Part III event on Bullying and Cyber Bullying will be hosted at the Dublin High School Student Union on Thursday, March 14 from 6:30 – 8:00 PM. In addition to Ms. Drenick , she will be joined by Officer Chris Goulding of the Dublin Police Department, Theresa Young, Assistant Principal at Dublin High School and a representative of the Tri-Valley Haven. All DUSD families are encouraged to attend and to learn about this very important issue. Students of any age are also invited to attend if they are prepared to engage in this adult-level discussion.

Cyber Bullying Courageous Conversations III

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