Cyber bullying : bare schools filling the legal gap?
Batterbee, Wendy Ann
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The intent of this concurrent mixed methods study was to examine whether public schools are geared to fill the legal gap that exists between the available cyber technology and managing learner cyber bullying effectively. In the study, non-experimental, descriptive survey research was used to determine the occurrence of cyber bullying at school level, according to the experiences and views of educators and learners at public schools in Sedibeng East district (D7). At the same time, cyber bullying at school level was explored by conducting a document analysis of the Codes of Conduct of participating schools in D7. The reason for combining both quantitative and qualitative data was to understand the research problem better by converging both broad quantitative numeric trends and more detailed qualitative data. Moreover, this study was based on an advocacy and participatory worldview and aimed to improve and adjust, among others, participants‟ lives by attending to an explicit problem that articulates significant social issues of the day. The study aimed at designing a strategy to counteract cyber bullying at schools, while at the same time increasing educators and learners‟ awareness of cyber bullying – and through them also the awareness of parents/caregivers. In view of this, the researcher considered primary and secondary literature sources in order to gather information on cyber bullying, relevant legislation and relevant guidelines/policies. Linked to the advocacy and participatory research design, the research of this thesis followed a mixed-method design, involving non-experimental, descriptive survey research, analytical research using legal analysis and a document analysis of the Codes of Conduct of participating schools. These different quantitative and qualitative research methods were used in order to investigate, explore and understand whether the selected schools were able to fill the legal gap that exists between cyber technology and managing learner cyber bullying. These data sources were firstly analysed separately by generating the data, investigating the meaning, exploring the data inductively and characterizing the emerging results. The second stage was that of fusing the datasets by merging the results and the findings in order to answer the research question, which, in this study, was whether schools are geared to fill the legal gap that exists between the available cyber technology and managing cyber bullying. The researcher then focused on proposing innovative guidelines to develop a strategy to support schools in bridging the legal gap regarding cyber bullying. These guidelines were compiled in line with (1) relevant legislation and other legal documents that are already in place to counter-balance cyber bullying at school level; (2) the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) that Grades R-6 and 11 are currently using in Life Skills lessons; and (3) the Positive Behaviour Interventions and Support (PBIS) approach towards reducing disciplinary challenges such as cyber bullying at schools. The Life Skills programme was used to develop an eight week strategy to support schools in bridging the legal gap between existing cyber technology and managing cyber bullying. In order to operationalize this strategy, the researcher chose the participatory management model. This model ensured the involvement of all staff members, parents/caregivers, learners and community members in the planning process. The strategy to be implemented consisted of two phases. The first phase aimed at counteracting cyber bullying at school level involved taking a comprehensive look at the identified legislation and subordinate legal documents in order to consider to what extent aspects could be regarded as relevant to forming a legal framework for the suggested guidelines. The second phase to develop a strategy aimed at counteracting cyber bullying at school level involved taking a comprehensive look at the strengths and weaknesses that were identified while analysing the twelve participating schools‟ Codes of Conduct in order to consider how these aspects could form part of the suggested guidelines.
- Education