Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mayor Menino and Superintendent Johnson Host Meeting with Cyber-Mentors at City Hall

As part of the Mayor's ongoing campaign against bullying in the city of Boston, he and BPS superintendent of schools, Dr. Carol Johnson, hosted a meeting about cyberbullying with past and present Boston Public School's cybersafety mentors. The cybersafety mentors are BPS high school students who have been hired during past summers to create materials and perform presentations to educate others in the community about the importance of cybersafety. Two weeks ago, Mayor Menino announced the city's campaign against bullying which included a hotline in which students and parents can anonymously call to report incidents of bullying. The hotline is up and running through the Boston Health Commission and has already received some phone calls according to this article from the Boston Herald. The bullying hotline number is 617.534.5050.

Another part of the campaign was to meet with students to solicit their ideas on how the city can better respond to bullying, what schools can do to help parents and students and how the city can work with social networking websites on providing protection for victims of cyberbullying. As both the mayor and superintendent stated during the meeting, the students are the experts when it comes to cyberbullying and social networking issues and it is important that they play a key role in the way the city and schools respond to cyberbullying incidents. Mayor Menino hosted 16 cybersafety mentors for lunch in his office to get their input. The students had a number of great ideas including:
  • We need to find a way to get the message out to parents. a lot of parents don't know what their kids are doing online...we should have classes for parents.
  • A group task force should be created to specifically deal with cybersecurity and cyberbullying in the city of Boston.
  • Companies providing the technology should provide the user with basic safety knowledge. Facebook and other sites like it should provide online training tutorials to educate the user how to properly use the site. Scenarios about cyberbullying with instructions on what to do if you are cyberbullied should be included on that.
  • Facebook and other social networking companies should make you go through a safety training before allowing you to create a profile.
  • Advertise the bullying hotline on the MBTA. Students are always taking trains and buses, the anti-bullying campaign should be publicized there.
  • There should be a city wide cybersafety week to highlight all of the issues. There should be activities during that week to educate students and parents about cybersafety.
  • Educate all people on the statistics of cyberbullying. How many victims there actually are. People respond to statistics.
  • Create a fan page on Facebook so students can forward information and follow the campaign.
  • There needs to be clear, appropriate consequences and consistent enforcement of cyberbullying policy in the district that will act as a deterrent to those who are thinking of bullying someone.
  • There should be counseling services available not just for victims, but for the bullies as well. A lot of times people bully others because they are suffering from low self esteem or they have other problems in their lives.
Mayor Menino and Superintendent Johnson will take a closer look at these recommendations from the students as they expand and define Boston's anti-bullying campaign this spring. There is also a planned spring forum on social networking that will take place and possibly include representatives from social networking sites Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and MySpace.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mayor Menino Announces Anti-Bullying Campaign

Mayor Thomas Menino made an appearance at the McCormack Middle School Health and Wellness Day last Friday to speak to eighth grade students about bullying. The McCormack school Health and Wellness day featured community organizations making presentations to students on a variety of health related subjects. The Mayor used the event to announce a campaign against all types of bullying. The Mayor has proposed the following for the residents of Boston:
  • A new hotline for young people to report incidents of bullying
  • Outreach efforts to parents and families through flyers, letters and workshops
  • A letter to parents from the Mayor and Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson about the efforts to confront the issue head-on
  • Providing increased training for employees who work directly with youth to help identify and prevent bullying
Mayor Menino will also be meeting this week with a group of cyber mentors from the Boston Public Schools to discuss what else the city can do to support students and their families. The cyber mentors are high school aged students who have been hired by the BPS in the past to create educational materials and deliver presentations to younger students about cyber safety. The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald both ran articles about the event.

During the event, students from TechBoston Academy also unveiled a video PSA they created about cyberbullying. The PSA can be downloaded from the BPS Cybersafety website, or viewed here.

Cyberbullying PSA: "Anti-Social" from Joe Kidd on Vimeo.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sumner School Students Use Technology to Raise Funds for Haiti

This is a great example of schools using technology for the good of humanity, please contribute if you can!

Schools from all over Boston have come together to help the Haiti Relief Efforts. Many schools have been devising ways to raise money for the earthquake ravaged nation. Some schools have raised money by having bake sales, while other schools have raised money by having special non uniform days, such as "crazy hat day" and "pajama day". You can view a list of what schools have done on the Boston Public Schools Support For Haiti web page.

The Charles Sumner Elementary School in Roslindale is using technology to help raise money for those in need. They used a Flip video camera to film their students and started a web page on the Partners in Health website with the goal of raising $1,000. Kate Klein, the technology teacher at the Sumner, sent me an email about the project. In it she wrote, "The earthquake in Haiti has affected our school deeply. Our students have family members who perished there. Our school is trying to empower our students. We are currently making a video of them to raise funds for Partners in Health (one of our teacher's fathers, a doctor, is currently in Haiti through this organization)." The video they created is below. If you would like to contribute to their efforts, please click on this link:

How an 8 Year Old Can Help Haiti from Sumner Elementary, Boston on Vimeo.