GALLERY: Middle schoolers campaign against cyberbullying

NILES — With this year’s unique challenges incorporating the ability to move between in-person and at-home instructions, art teacher Scott Morgan became aware of an issue facing many of his students at Ring Lardner Middle School and Eastside Connections: cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs over the internet, such as on social media platforms.

“I know it’s on the rise with the pandemic,” Morgan said. “This started as a discussion in class. I couldn’t believe how many students have experienced this.”

Morgan said he asked his students one day to raise their hand if they had ever been cyberbullied, and he said around 75 percent of the students raised their hands. He then asked how many had witnessed cyberbullying, and every hand shot up in the room.

“We started talking, and I said we were going to do an anti-cyberbullying poster,” Morgan said. “Nobody said they were not into it. They were all positive, and telling me stories.”

For Morgan, the project was a natural fit with his background in graphic design.

He began doing more research into the issue of cyberbullying to help educate his students on the issue. He found a law in Michigan that went into effect on March 27, 2019.

The law, Enrolled House Bill No. 5017, states that it is illegal to cyberbully another person. The misdemeanor punishments begin with a fine of no more than $500, or imprisonment up to 93 days, and escalate if the behavior continues into a felony with imprisonment up to 10 years or a fine of not more than $10,000, in the case of the violation being a pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior, “and by the violation causes the death of the victim.”

When the students learned about cyberbullying, and the project to create posters against cyberbullying, Morgan said they were excited to get started.

“They’re looking forward to having their posters hung up in the schools,” Morgan said.

After the students turned in their posters, Morgan said their insights were really thoughtful.

“I didn’t influence them one way or another, that came from their hearts,” he said.

Morgan hopes that the younger students at Eastside Connections see the posters and look up to their peers making the anti-cyberbullying posters.

Morgan teaches sixth through eighth grade students in art at Ring Lardner Middle School, and the same grades at Eastside Connections. At Eastside Connections, students are rotating into art every two weeks. This is just the first class of sixth graders to do the poster project at Eastside, but every two weeks Morgan said new students will be participating in the project.

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