BELTON, Mo. — A metro mom says some students have taken cyberbullying to a whole new level. Her daughter is the victim, and she says school-issued technology is to blame.
Amy Laughlin says school-issued iPads at Belton Middle School have become more problematic than useful. Her daughter in the seventh grade says she’s receiving bullying emails on her iPad from someone hacking into other students’ accounts.
“They were just telling me to go kill myself, that I was worthless, and fat, and ugly,” said 13-year-old Kersten Laughlin, who said she tried to ignore the emails, but told her mom when they got worse.
“Crying hysterically, ‘mom, they’re telling me they want me to go die,'” said Amy. “She’s a pretty tough kid, and for her to call me as hysterical as she was, and then she comes home and says, ‘mom, am I really fat? Should I really drop out of dance?'”
Some students were hacking into other students’ email accounts to make it look like the messages were coming from her good friends.
“You can’t just tell them to their face to stop, because you don’t know who it is,” added Kersten.
“We provided those emails and then a generic password for our students to set up,” said Belton School District Superintendent Dr. Andrew Underwood.
He says students knew some of the generic passwords were never changed and took advantage of that.
“One of the first things we`ve done is have our students set up a different username or password or both,” Underwood added.
The superintendent also said they remind students to keep their passwords private. The district is working on character education in class, and tracking down students using the iPads inappropriately.
“Some cases they may get them taken away, other cases we may tighten down the security, so they only have very limited access, we’ve also had a situation where a student tried to breach our system and they’ve been suspended,” said Underwood.
“We practice safe Internet at home, and yet, me as a parent sending her to school, getting these emails constantly is something I have no control over, and it just really upsets me,” said Amy.
“At first I kind of believed the stuff they were saying, but then I realized they were probably just insecure about themselves,” Kersten said.
Underwood said his district takes bullying very seriously, and says they put tighter restrictions on the iPads when necessary. He also says they have an online service called Sprigeo to anonymously report bullying, and have put more staff in ‘hot spots’ where bullying tends to occur – like the lunchroom, bathroom, locker rooms — to try and prevent it.