The ease of publishing that blogging affords has allowed us to see more clearly things that have been going on forever. I know when I was at school people felt bullied by the faculty and staff; I know when I was at school some people were bullied by them. The answer is not to expel a student who chooses to post these views in their own time using their own facilities. Not only is it out of the school’s jurisdiction, it’s reinforcing an us-vs-them mentality that can really undermine education and the self esteem of individual students.
What got them scared, in a knee-jerk alarmist sort of way, was a reference to Columbine:
The kids at Columbine did what they did because they were bullied. In my opinion you are the real threat here. None of us ever put in our xanga’s that they were going to kill or bring harm to any one. we voiced our opinions. you are the real threat here. you are depriving us of our right to learn.
Bullying is an important issue that’s hardly been touched on in the context of online learning communities. There are likely to be several dynamics at work; the most pressing may be the worm turns scenario, where the very computer-literate and/or eloquent students who are bullied in the real-life classroom take the opportunity to get the upper hand online. In any event, there are likely to be little cliques and infighting and petty personal politics: school classrooms are not happy friendly places where everybody gets along – or at least, they’re not at any school I’ve seen. How do you prevent that dynamic from carrying over into the online space?