Here's a draft of our Friday editorial.
Imagine a classroom of 25 kids — students facing the challenges of schoolwork and the awkwardness and peer pressure that comes with growing up.
Now, imagine 720 classrooms.
If you can envision that, you have a mental picture of the pervasive reach of cyberbullying in Idaho. Each year, more than 18,000 Idaho kids receive threatening texts or messages.
The smartphone that is a must-have and a connection to family and friends also makes it easier for bullies to target victims — perhaps anonymously, often from a distance. The social networking sites that provide young people a virtual gathering place also provide a stalking ground for bullies.
For many adults — no matter how much verbal abuse they saw or heard in school hallways or locker rooms — this new form of bullying is more difficult to comprehend.
Awareness, then, is an important first step. So we commend Gov. Butch Otter for speaking out against cyberbullying in a new public service announcement.
The governor — and a host of partner groups and state agencies — set a lofty goal: an environment of “zero tolerance.”
Of course, bullying will never be eradicated, in any form. But one instance of bullying is one too many. When teachers and parents have a better grasp of the problem, they stand a better chance of preventing cyberbullying — or, at least, stepping in and standing up when it does occur.
State government can and should do more to stick up for Idaho’s young people. The 2012 Legislature missed an opportunity when it failed to pass an anti-bullying bill. The bill would have specifically written cyberbullying into Idaho’s existing anti-bullying law. It also would have required school personnel to intervene on behalf of bullying victims, while requiring districts to provide annual training on how to combat bullying.
The bill passed the Senate on a bipartisan 25-8 vote but stalled in the House, so it never reached Otter’s desk. In an interview with the Associated Press, spokesman Jon Hanian made no commitments on Otter’s behalf. “He understands and respects that the Legislature is going to do what they’re going to do.”
Yes, but a governor isn’t just a spectator to the legislative process. The elected chief executive heads an equal branch of state government — and is allowed and expected to propose or promote legislation.
Such as a tougher anti-bullying bill.
By cutting this public service advertisement, Otter brings the problem of cyberbullying into focus. That’s a good first step. It deserves a good, forceful followup.