Since our book School Climate 2.0: Preventing Cyberbullying and Sexting One Classroom at a Time was published last year, the response has been amazing. Many educators have come up to us at events around the country to tell us how much they really appreciate the research-based information and strategies that they can put to use in their classrooms. Others who know a thing or two about teaching and technology have also chimed in with their opinions.
For example, Kevin Jennings, the former Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education said “this book is filled with useful information and practical tips for those who seek to create positive school climates where bullying of all kinds is minimized.” Joe Sullivan, the Chief Security Officer of Facebook said: “this practical guide provides important information, backed up by careful research, about the ways that adults can help build constructive dialogues and relationships with students.” Jonathan Cohen from the National School Climate Center called it a “wise and practically helpful book.” You can read more thoughtful reviews here. The book has also been reviewed 21 times on Amazon.com and all but one reviewer gave it 5 stars. So, suffice it to say that the weight of the public opinion on the book has been wonderfully positive.
All of this not-so-shameless self-promotion sets the stage for an email Sameer and I received last week that our book had been recently reviewed as it was being evaluated for an award. Here is the entire, unedited review:
“This book should be required reading for any educator currently facing today’s youth in classrooms. Easy to read, practical information and suggestions abound throughout. I do not feel the authors clearly indicate how school officials and administrators might influence or mitigate out-of-school, off-site social media bullying, other than showing repeatedly that what happens online after school very much affects school climate the next day. This really is the crux of the problem not only for schools, but with this book. Five out of the eight chapters focus on an out-of-school online climate that is most often also out-of-reach legally for school administrators. However, the authors do an excellent job of discussing the unintended consequences of the necessities and practicalities of BYOD, and offer many ideas to try (example: Delete Day). There are many lists of questions for administrators to ask themselves and students about school climate. The chapter summaries are actually a great learning tool, as they nicely recap the entire chapter. Throughout, the authors maintain a very positive approach.”
Even though the review starts out great and notes several positive aspects of the book, I found myself focusing in on the two criticisms, or really misunderstandings, that were expressed by the reviewer. And because we have this great venue with which to connect with you, our loyal followers, I thought I would take a minute to respond to these concerns.
The first issue raised by the reviewer was that the book did not “clearly indicate how school officials and administrators might influence or mitigate out-of-school, off-site social media bullying…” I feel that the book makes a very compelling argument, starting right in Chapter 1 that the strength of the student/teacher relationship vis-à-vis a positive climate at the school was one such way to have a great influence: “by developing strong relationships between the school and students, among students themselves, and between the school and their families, this principle can be used to dissuade negative behaviors and encourage positive behaviors even when adults aren’t around—such as when teens are online” (p. 11). In fact, this is the entire thesis of the book! The whole point of the book is that educators who work to foster a positive climate at school *can* influence the behavioral choices of students, even when they are away from school. This perspective is revisited throughout the book and in Chapter 6 in particular when we discuss numerous specific strategies for improving the climate with the broader goal of “mitigating” the “off-site” problematic behaviors.
The second criticism that jumped out at me was the suggestion that much of the content of the book “…focus[es] on an out-of-school online climate that is most often also out-of-reach legally for school administrators.” Chapter 9 addresses this misunderstanding head on, as illustrated by this specific subheading: “Can Schools Respond to Behaviors That Occur Away From Campus” (p. 164). The short answer is, of course, yes, they can! And that chapter spells out the legal, policy, and ethical arguments for that response. The bottom line is that educators *can* respond to any behaviors, even those that occur far away from the school, if the behaviors result in, or have a articulable and imminent likelihood of resulting in, a substantial disruption of the learning environment at school (see also this blog post). We believe that most cyberbullying incidents can rise to this level but that educators need to respond appropriately and reasonably.
This reviewer apparently didn’t read our book very carefully. Perhaps the evidence for this conclusion lies within the content of the review itself. Exhibit A is this statement: “Five out of the eight chapters focus on…” The book actually contains 9 chapters. Exhibit B is this: “The chapter summaries are actually a great learning tool, as they nicely recap the entire chapter.” Could it be that the reviewer simply read the summaries and not the full contents of each chapter? Whatever the cause for the confusion, we are always happy to address questions and concerns raised in our writing. The value for us in this blog is in our ability to connect more directly with you so that we can discuss these issues in a way that is more enlightening to all. We learn something new from our online friends every day, whether it comes in the form of a comment on the blog, an email, or a social media mention. And we try to pass along new insights or explanations of our various materials. So don’t hesitate to contact us! Whether it is for the purpose of complementing, criticizing, or clarification, we are here to listen, learn, and pass along important updates. We are all in this together!