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Guest Commentary: The School District of Lee County Board Member message
October 16, 2019

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As we begin our second full month of school, October is National Bullying Prevention month. Safety is a primary focus of our District. If students do not feel safe, they do not learn. One major type of bullying that we do not always notice until damage is done, is Cyberbullying.

The old clich "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is no longer true. In the real world and online, name-calling can have a serious impact on kids and teens, but Cyberbullying can go much further than just name calling.

Cyberbullying, like bullying, is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Cyberbullying includes actions such as making threats, stalking, spreading rumors and attacking someone verbally on platforms like personal websites, Blogs or Vlogs, Email, Text or Instant Messages, Social Media, Chat Rooms, Message Boards or through video games.

According to the Total Intelligence Group, 15.5% of high school students and 24% of middle school students were cyberbullied in 2015. The percentage of individuals who have experienced Cyberbullying has nearly doubled (18%-34%) from 2007-2016.

Thirteen percent of teens reported they did not want to attend school after being cyberbullied and 64% said it negatively impacted their feelings of safety and their ability to learn.

Cyberbullying is unique because victims might not know who the bully is, or why they are being targeted. There can be a large audience since the actions of Cyberbullies can go viral. Plus, Cyberbullying is hard to notice because parents and teachers may not see or overhear it.

Parents need to recognize Cyberbullying and look for the signs. According to stopbullying.gov, signs may include:

Parents be aware of what your children are doing on their phone and social media. Discuss acceptable online behavior with your children, keep the lines of communication open and stay informed about trends. Talk to your children about bullying and how to report it when they see it happening. It is important for all of us to take a stand to stop bullying.

Teachers and administrators can help, and so can the SROs at your child's school.

Speaking of SROs, I want to take a minute and congratulate Lee County Sheriff Deputy First Class Donna Aiossa-McNally for being named Officer of the Year. "Deputy Donna," as she's known to students and staff, is the SRO at Buckingham Exceptional Center. Deputy Donna is passionate about ending homelessness, addiction and hunger. She started a food pantry at the school for students and their families and is working to help the school remodel its kitchen into an accessible learning environment for students.

If you would like to help, bring a canned and/or nonperishable food item to the school on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can meet LCSO K9 Deputy Chance and bloodhounds Maggie and Mercy. The LCSO Aviation Unit will be there with its helicopter and there will be a bounce house for the kids.

We are honored that our District has compassionate people protecting our students and I hope this message helps keep each child safe and sheds a little light on how to do that.

Thank you for allowing me to serve this community.

Best Wishes,

- Melisa W. Giovannelli, Lee County School Board District 2

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