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Officials discuss online bullying

A group of Kanawha County school administrators met with officials from Facebook and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito Tuesday for a discussion on cyber-bullying.

Capito called for the discussion. She said she was touched by several recent national news items about tragedies involving young people who were tormented by cyberbullying.

She specifically mentioned the death of a 14-year-old Florida girl who jumped to her death in September after being bullied by classmates on Facebook.

"My interest, really, is thinking about the desperation of that young girl," she said. "To be that desperate at that young age is just really painful, so anything we can do to prevent that from happening we need to do."

She said she hoped the roundtable discussion would let her brainstorm with school and technology officials about ways to prevent such a tragedy, and cyberbullying generally, from happening in West Virginia's schools.

"As far as where Congress is going on this, I have no idea," she said. "I'm not sure this is even a place where you can legislate and stop the behaviors or even prevent them .<!p>.<!p>. like anything involving children, it takes the parents being really involved."

For their part, the Facebook team said the social media company is trying to be proactive in its approach to cyberbullying.

"We're trying to say, what are the tools Facebook has built - how can we be helpful to you," said Krista Kobeski, of Facebook's policy communications team, said to the assembled group of educators.

"This information, just like you will be able to take it back to your job, I will be able to take it back to mine as well. When it comes to solving problems, we know that the best display is getting the right people in the room."

Kanawha County Schools officials have expressed an interest in working to counter cyberbullying in the past but, as in school systems across the country, often come up against laws governing what they can and cannot regulate.

Much of Tuesday's roundtable was closed to the media because of concerns over student privacy. School officials discussed specific cases dealing with students cyber-bullying in West Virginia.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.


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