Mineral County educating students on social media, cyber-bullying

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Updated: 4/07/2014 7:06 pm
MINERAL COUNTY, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- A student at Mineral County High School remains in custody at the Juvenile Detention Center on Harassment charges for making threats against a teacher.

School officials are using this as an educational opportunity to prevent it from happening again. After the student was taken into custody, local law enforcement and administrators wanted to make this a teachable moment with a hands-on approach.

In his 23 years as an educator, Mineral County Principal Mike Domagala said it has only been in the past five years that bullying and cyber-bullying has become a major problem. "With the rise of social media, cell phones, that's been the biggest problem. Computers and cell phones have been the biggest culprit."

When one of his students got arrested for making specific threats to a teacher, Domagala and Mineral County Sheriff Stewart Handte wanted to take action, by educating students about the legal ramifications.

"People say, 'I was only joking, I put it on facebook just to get some laughs.' Well, if it's threatening in nature, there's cyber bullying laws out there. There's stalker laws out there. There's harassment laws, there's all type of laws to prevent that," said Handte.

Many of the students said seeing one of their classmates get in trouble with the law opened their eyes on how they use social media, and how they treat each other "When you post one thing, it's for everyone to see," said Senior Danielle Wilson. "It's social. So everyone sees it and everyone can have something to say about it and it can really hurt someone."

Although students were not too excited to be lectured, they said the assembly made an impact. "It shows that they actually do care about our school, and they actually want to change something," said Freshman Alfonso Castillo Turjillo. "Not just allow people to get away with it like it has been in the past."
And students are willing to take their principal's challenge to speak up when they see acts of bullying. "I'll tell them to stop it or report it. And even if they call me names, I'll still report it," said Senior Jonathan Gordan. "I'm serious. This is something that needs to stop, before it happens."

Handte and Domagala said they hope this will be an example and inspiration for other schools to follow suit, and take the time to really talk to their students about bullying and social media use, in order to catch warning signs of destructive behavior.
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