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5th graders want to change state's online bullying law

5th graders at Lineweaver Elementary work to change AZ's cyberbullying law.

5th graders want to change state's online bullying law

CREATED Feb 22, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - 5th graders at TUSD's Lineweaver Elementary are worried and they've been working hard to get their voices heard. The students are part of a program called Project Citizen and the topic they've chosen to tackle this year is cyberbullying.

5th grader Jalisa Romero said, "I'm scared about what will happen in Middle School. There are a lot of mean kids. If they're going to be mean, I know what to do in this situation."

During their research -- the students discovered something disturbing. The targets of online bullies are getting younger. "It's become an issue because 3 to 11 year olds have been going on the internet way more," said classmate Samantha Mueller. Teacher Heather Matchett continued, "60 percent are online. So this is a problem that's going to get worse in the younger grades."

Another eye-opening fact -- "The amount of aggression that occurs outside w'ere not told about. Only 5 percent of student report anything. So we don't even know. So when we talk to kids we're amazed. It's amazing how mean some people can be at other people," said Matchett.

The class examined the state's current law on cyberbullying and decided it needs to be expanded. "The problem is that it happens outside of school, but it severely impacts what happens in school because kids are afraid to come to school and it blows up at school," said Matchett.

After the students drafted a policy that includes off campus behavior, the 5th graders took action.
"We wrote to the mayor, the governor, the Attorney General, State senators and representatives and all those people," said Jalisa Romero. And while the class waits to see if there are changes in state law, they have another task at hand. "What can the community do to help elementary students to make sure we teach them to properly use the internet," said Matchett.

The students are also working to compile case studies. They've been examining our coverage of the issue and the class plans to ask the Tucson Police Department to provide them with examples of cyberbullying cases.

Note: Senate Bill 1462, which expands cyberbullying outside of school, made it through the Education committee last week.