Dear Kathy Sierra: Anti-Cyberbullying Day Friday March 30th is for you!

This is a letter written to techno-guru and inspiration Kathy Sierra who has several times stooped from the heights of Technorati greatness to link to my blog and encourage me in my learning. She as been experiencing a barrage of death threats and incidents and the blogging community is angry! I am livid! Here is my open letter to her.

Kathy,

The educational community (and many others) is behind you. What has happened to you is reprehensible, and in my opinion, illegal.

Andy Carvin
is calling for an anti-cyberbullying day on this Friday, March 30th and I’m with him. My post over on Tech Learning will be dedicated to you and on this topic of cyberbullying.

I’m sorry for what has happened and I will be praying for you to be strong and continue to be vocal. You already have a platform, now you have a cause that can impact the world: Internet freedom and safety.

For truly it is not freedom when one limits the freedom of another.

  • We are free to own a gun, but not to shoot another human being.
  • We are free to own a car, but not to run another person down.
  • We are free to use scissors, but not to stab someone with them.

The moment a certain degree of harm is inflicted on another, we lose the freedom to use that item.

This is not about their freedom of speech, but about your freedom from fear.

And what happens now is very important because it sets a precedent for what happens in the future. Truly, you have a pivotal place in history and time because this one incident, if fought and won, can be used to protect the electronic safety of generations to come.

We need free speech on the Internet and the freedom to write on our blogs.

But we also need to have the ethics and professionalism to interact with the sensitivity that there are living breathing people on the other side of the words on a page. Our society is sadly lacking in techno-personal skills and it is time for more schools to do something about it!

But, we have allowed our reality driven, happy slapping, Borat-praising cultural tendencies that say it is OK to harm another as long as you “get famous” to go too far.

I cannot deal with these people, that is for the authorities to do, but I can do something within my tiny sphere of influence: I can advocate change in all schools so that we do not produce more people like these who have threatened you!

And I call on every educator to show their support against cyberbullying by doing as many of the following as possible on Friday:

  • Posting this Friday about cyberbullying and how to prevent it. (Tag: stopcyberbullying)
  • If you podcast, please record a podcast. If you video, release a video.
  • If you have something on your list to do for the cyberbullying efforts at your school — do it in Kathy’s honor. (Schedule that parent meeting, send out that letter, post that podcast.)
  • Remember to advocate the effective use of technology, there are many who advocate blocking everything and they’d love to stop the tiny trickle of momentum that has been building. (Kathy wouldn’t want that, I don’t think.)

  • Use blocking for good for a change — block the site meankids.org and don’t go there your self. Certainly, do not give them a link!

  • Write a letter to your local newspaper advocating Internet safety education at the K-12 level and include the importance of using these tools to stamp out the growing ignorance. Education is the answer, not blocking.
  • Join the social networking space created by Andy to bring awareness to this topic – http://stopcyberbullying.ning.com/

  • Propose or share something you think is effective.

Kathy, this is a terrible thing, but perhaps if we educators band together and DO something to stop future cyberbullying, you can experience some solace in that.

I ask my friends in the edublogosphere to join me with all of my heart.

My prayers are with you,

Vicki, Cool Cat Teacher

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7 thoughts on “Dear Kathy Sierra: Anti-Cyberbullying Day Friday March 30th is for you!

  1. Soldarity. That’s the way forward. Good for you, Vicki. I remember a story I heard once about persecution The details may be sketchy, but the premise is what counts.

    In a town in the southern US, Jews were being targeted for persecution by a gang of youths. Around the time of Hanukkah, every Jewish home had a menorah in the window. This made it very easy for the youths to identify them. They would attach obscene, threatening messages to rocks and hurl them through the front windows of these homes. The police didn’t seem to be having much success in catching the perpetrators, so the churches in the town decided to take another tack. Every churchgoer in the town placed a menorah in their window, and the idea caught on. Soon, there were so many menorahs in so many windows – among them, very possibly the parents of the culprits – and the vandalism stopped.

    There must be a way that we can adapt this approach for the web…

  2. This is an amazing post, Vicki. Thank you so much for writing this for Kathy. And thank you for encouraging others to get involved this Friday as well.

  3. Um… maybe “We are free to own a gun, but not to shoot another human being” was a bad example.

    A lot of people – myself included – consider the mere presence of a gun in an environment to cause injury.

  4. Yes, Karyn — solidarity is important!

    Andy – Thank you for using your influence to call for such a day as Friday.

    Stephen – I thought about that example and used it because there are many out there that feel about the Internet as you do about guns. Whether we like them or not, they are legal. Whether the world likes the Internet or not, it is also there (albeit much more so than guns.) I to do not like the violence caused by guns, but growing up on a farm, hunting wild game is a way of life for us although no one really carries a gun on their person, so I probably feel differently from that perspective. Thank you for your input.

  5. Vicki–

    Thank you for your excellent post with ideas we can use. As soon as I can I will start teaching about cyber-bullying to my elementary students. I’m a librarian in a K-6 school. Maybe if we start to instill ethical values at a young age, we’ll have a chance…

    By the way, there’s a picture book about the incident Karyn related. It’s called The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn. I use it with my older students. It’s a great start for discussion.

  6. Vicky,

    Remember the term “circle of the wise” – I have a folder in my RSS reader with that label. Your blog is in it, along with Kathy’s — I miss her posts so much and with your support on this maybe maybe maybe – we create a more civilized blogosphere .. sorry to miss the WOW2 IRC .. looking forward to what you write for Friday.

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