As of January 1, 2015, a new law will go into effect in Illinois that allows schools to punish students for offenses that occur outside of the classroom, with an emphasis on combatting cyberbullying.
The News-Gazette reported that the law “allows schools to discipline students for any type of electronic bullying that causes a disruption to the school day,” even if that bullying occurred outside of school.
According to NBC Chicago, the new law “expands on a previous legislation banning cyberbullying in schools,” and “applies to devices that aren’t owned or used by a school.”
Once the law goes into effect, Tuscola High School plans to launch an online “Issue Awareness Report,” which is a forum for concerned individuals to notify the principal, social workers, and guidance counselors of instances in which they have been bullied or harassed on the Internet.
Katie Hatfield, a social worker in Tuscola, told the News-Gazette that although when posting in the forum, users must include specific details about the incident of offense, the post is ultimately anonymous, and the user is not required to provide his or her name.
“The forum is a good way for people to share information and let us know what is going on without us having to get it second-hand,” said Hatfield. “If we know about what is happening, we can more easily address it.”
NBC Chicago reported that the new legislation, which was approved by the Illinois Legislature earlier this year, and signed by Governor Pat Quinn in August, would require districts to “update their disciplinary policies to reflect the new law.”
Darren Loschen, the Principal of Armstrong High School, expressed concern about the liability the new law will put on school districts.
“It’s really a situation where you would hope schools would deal with bullying, no matter when the harm happens, but if it’s happening off school grounds and it’s not tied to the school, then there’s always the question: Should it be handled by someone else?” Loshchen said.