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Ossining Students Take Cyberbullying Survey

OSSINING, N.Y. – The Ossining school district is going straight to the source this week to find out whether cyberbullying is a big issue for students.

Students from grades three to 12 are being asked to take a bullying survey anonymously. School district officials say they hope to discover the prevalence, nature and impact of bullying and cyberbullying in the schools. The survey stems from the state’s new Dignity for All Students Act and the district's Positive Behavior Intervention and Support Program committee.

The survey is similar to a state survey conducted by the Independent Democratic Conference. Both the state Senate and the Assembly on Monday passed a bill on cyberbullying awareness and reporting.

"Terrible things have been happening to young people lately," Assembly member Sandy Galef (D-Ossining) said Monday night. "If we don't do this, we will continue to have people that are harassed, and we can't have that happen."

Ossining High School student Daniel McQuaid, 16, said Monday that the issue of cyberbullying could be growing in the school district.

“Right now cyberbullying doesn’t really seem to be all that prevalent, but I think it’s becoming more of a problem than conventional bullying,” McQuaid said. “I’ve never really had run-ins with bullying. I think it’s pretty rare, and I think when it does happen, it doesn’t become that serious.”

He later referred to what he called “Twitter fights,” in which a student will post a message on Twitter directly insulting another student, who will then reply with another insult back using Twitter.

“Sometimes it develops into something bigger than just that,” he said, later adding that he had seen representatives of the district respond to bullying. “If something does happen, usually someone at the school steps in and says something. I don’t think there really is much they can do on the Internet to prevent cyberbullying, though. I think that’s really out of their hands.”

McQuaid’s mother, Gloria McQuaid, said she’s proud of the active steps from the Ossining school district.

“From a parent’s perspective, it is frightening what’s happening in society,” Gloria McQuaid said. “Everyone has got to work together to be on top of this. And I do feel that the Ossining school district does a great job of being on top of it.”

Phyllis Glassman, superintendent of Ossining schools, said it’s vital that all representatives come together to fully realize the magnitude of the issue.

“We know that cyberbullying is a national issue, and we recognize that if it is, it’s probably somewhere in Westchester County as well,” Glassman said. “This has become a very serious issue, and over the years we’ve had many assemblies and discussions with the students and the parents on bullying and cyberbullying.”

Glassman said the district would continue to provide new information to parents through assemblies and meetings similar to a presentation in May when Westchester County Assistant District Attorney Laura Forbes spoke on Internet bullying.

“We’re going to continue to take this issue seriously, and we’re going to do whatever we can to share information with parents and students,” Glassman said.

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