Cyberbullying is a hot-button issue for many school districts, especially in this age of social networking, and certainly no less so in Aptakisic-Tripp School District 102.
Four candidates running for three school board seats on Tuesday have weighed in on the issue.
Incumbent Steven Lefar, 44, said, "There is really a very strong zero-tolerance policy around bullying."
However, Lefar said, the penalties need to be age-appropriate and used to teach kids on the social-emotional level how to behave.
"How you counsel a kindergartner on those kinds of issues versus an eighth-grader is very, very different," he said.
He said the district has been proactive in educating about cyberbullying and social networking, adding that the superintendent has even communicated warnings about Facebook.
Incumbent Ellyn Ross, 51, agreed that not every cyberbullying situation is the same.
The policy has to be consistent, she said, but "then you're dealing with two students, if one is a special-needs child and one is a regular (education child) ... you have to look at the situation. And the discipline or the consequences have to be different, depending on the student."
Challenger Alan J. Rubenstein, 46, said studies tend to show that "cyberbullying today is affecting somewhere on the order of 20 percent of students." He said "there is a potential danger and a potential insidiousness to cyberbullying that goes well beyond the type of bullying we may have witnessed as students growing up."
Rubenstein said it is important not to just be reactive, responding when an incident arises, but also to focus more on prevention. He favors a no-nonsense approach, making sure teachers and staff are attuned to the warning signs. He also noted that some districts use surveys to analyze students' perceptions.
Challenger Scott Linn, 58, said he supports the district's steps to fully enforce Internet safety guidelines, including the protection from cyberbullying.
"Cyberbullying has become much more prevalent because of the Internet, and we're using the Internet more and more over in District 102. So I want to make sure that, number one, we start out with a zero-tolerance policy with regard to cyberbullying," Linn said. At the same time, he said, "I want to make sure that we're educating the students and the parents as to what cyberbullying is and how it can take different forms and that we're going to make sure that if a case comes before the board and the administration that we're going to be looking at every aspect of it."