CHS workshop address ‘cyberbullying’

Concern for local schoolchildren and their physical and mental
well being on the Internet and in real life brought several parents
and teachers together during a cyberbullying workshop at Calhoun
High School on Thursday night.

“It’s happening more and more frequently; I get parents that
send us printouts of stuff all of the time,” Calhoun principal
Brandon Stiewig said. “Parents rarely know about this world, so
it’s good that we’re here as a group of adults because we can start
to learn it. There’s certain things that you can see and start to
identify that tell you if your child is being bullied or

According to Section 25.0342(a) of the Texas Education Code,
bullying is designated as “engaging in written or verbal expression
or physical conduct” determined by a school district, its board of
trustees or the board’s designee determines will either “have the
effect” of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s
property or causing a student reasonable fear of harm to themselves
or their property, or creates an intimidating, threatening or
abusive environment for the student.

Social aggression conveyed via digital platforms such as email,
text messaging and social networking sites is considered on-line
social cruelty, or ‘cyberbullying.’ The workshop offered ideas on
warning signs and tips for dealing with the growing social

“So many times I’ll visit with a parent and I’ll tell them about
a situation I’m having with their child and they’ll say ‘I had no
idea… my son makes good grades, my son doesn’t do drugs, my son is
involved,’” Stiewig said. “They have no idea of that other world
that they always are involved in.”

Stiewig said the fear of overreaction and digital restriction
from parents and other adults are just a few of the reasons that
prevent many children and teens from confiding in authoritative
figures about cyberbullying problems.

If a student is being cyberbullied, Stiewig and district police
chief Greg Falcon encourage the student and parents to save all
information related to the cyberbullying incident as proof. Falcon
noted that he could file charges with the district attorney on
children as young as 10, but substantial proof is essential to
determine the victim versus the cyberbully.

“You’ve got to look at it both ways; are you being victimized or
are you being the aggressor,” Falcon said. “I’ve got to prove in
court who’s who and that’s the really hard part. I have to make
sure that it all connects before it goes to court.”

Falcon said that he did not know of a previous court case in the
county related to cyberbullying as of press time.

Marcus Martinez, CCISD technology coordinator, addressed the
district’s monitoring and Internet filtering system, DeepNines.
With the intent to “protect, control and manage” the district’s
Internet offerings for children on school property, Martinez noted
that proxies, or servers that allow users to view websites
otherwise blocked, are cut off to prevent Internet misuse by

“When I first got here three years ago, we had a box which
allowed kids to bypass our filter and I had calls from some of
you,” Martinez said. “The district didn’t have an appliance in
place; from the technical side of it, we weren’t 100 percent
protected from all of these malicious websites.”

Martinez said DeepNines was selected after some investigation by
the district and the investment has “paid off” by lowering proxy
usage and helping to eliminate access to social networking sites as
a measure against cyberbullying.

“This filter will actually do a good job; I’m not saying it’s a
100 percent foolproof, but it’s cut down on our social networking
sites,” Martinez said. “It actually has helped our kids as far as
keeping up with what they’re doing in the classroom.”

The system blocks a number of social networking sites, which
Martinez said will also be blocked on Calhoun’s pending wireless
network to eliminate possible access by students trying to use
their smartphones during school hours.

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