A law that takes effect next week will allow Illinois school districts to punish students for cyberbullying, even if it occurs outside of school.
Currently, districts may take action against students if online bullying — such as something posted on Twitter or Facebook — occurs during the school day or using district-owned technology. Starting Jan. 1, schools will be able to discipline students for any electronic bullying that disrupts the school day, The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports.
Districts also will have to update their disciplinary policies to reflect the new law.
The Illinois Legislature approved the measure earlier this year, and Gov. Pat Quinn signed it in August. Supporters say that wherever or whenever it happens, bullying can impact a student's ability to learn at school.
Officials at Tuscola High School in central Illinois say the district is launching an online forum in January that students and parents may use to anonymously report cyberbullying.
Tuscola's school social worker, Katie Hatfield, said the district is starting the forum in part because of the new law, but also because "it's the right thing to do."
"If we know about what is happening, we can more easily address it," Hatfield said.
But some district officials have concerns the law will put an added burden on schools.
"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?" said Darren Loschen, principal of Armstrong Township High School.