Bullying is no longer what it used to be.
The days of the meanest kid in school stuffing fellow students in lockers or stealing lunch money are largely over.
But that does not mean that the problem is extinct. Instead, as technology has changed the nature of interaction, children are picking on each other in different and more advanced ways than ever before.
A recent Grand Jury report released by San Mateo County identified cyberbullying as an increasingly popular form of students antagonizing one another by using social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, or through cell phones.
The report found both the and needed to upgrade their policy to add a section to address bullying specifically, rather than lump it in with harassment or misconduct.
Cyberbullying allows children to share embarrassing messages or pictures instantaneously, and often behind the cloak of anonymity.
Jane Yuster, Director of Assessment and Student Services at the Redwood City School District, said the rise of cyberbullying has made the issue more difficult to police than ever before.
"Since social media has become so powerful, and there is so much more access, you don't even need a computer," said Yuster. "All you need is a phone."
She said that the heightened burden of proof is one of the greatest challenges to those in the district who are investigating allegations of cyberbullying.
Yuster said she is aware of children stealing the identity of others online, which is a problem that can be hard to solve due to the lack of available evidence.
The Grand Jury report, released in May, instructed 21 school districts across the county to beef up their anti-bullying stance, as well as focus on cyberbullying and how to prevent it.
In responses filed with the Grand Jury, both districts agreed with some findings in the report. As well, each agreed to send representatives to an anti-bullying meeting held by the .
But Principal Bonnie Hansen said her school is taking a proactive stance against cyberbullying by making it an offense punishable by expulsion.
And that punishment remains the same, whether the cyberbullying takes place when a student uses district equipment, or if it occurs when students are at home and using their own computers.
Hansen said she believes the school administration's zero-tolerance policy of such behavior has contributed to there being no known cases of cyberbullying taking place at Sequoia.
"We are very clear from the start that you can't keep kids from getting an education by being unkind to them," said Hansen.
Hansen said the philosophy has resonated through the student body, creating what she called an environment that promotes positive peer pressure.
"I think this is one of the nicest places to go to school on the Peninsula," she said.
Alternatively, Yuster said the Redwood City School District's policy on cyberbullying is not quite as clear.
The district will consider suspending or expelling a student for being a cyberbully should they use school computers to antagonize fellow students, or when ill will between students due to such behavior spills over onto school campuses in the form of fighting or arguing, said Yuster.
But if a child is cyberbullying a fellow student from a home computer, Yuster said it is the district policy to notify parents that such behavior may be occurring, and not punish them for it.
Phil Lind, Principal at , said that he does see the logic in a district that elects to punish cyberbullies, regardless of whether the antagonization takes place on or off school property.
Lind said that it is a priority of each school to offer a safe classroom environment in which students are able and prepared to learn without the distraction of being bullied.
But ultimately Lind noted that his campus can only adhere to the district policy that is currently in place regarding cyberbullying. As well, all social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been blocked from use at school computers so students cannot access those sites from campus.
He also added that the changing climate surrounding cyberbullying, and it being a relatively new development that schools must create policy to police, may have contributed to the current regulations on the issue.
"We're learning how to deal with it as we go along because it is so new in the environment," said Lind.
Currently, students at Clifford Elementary take classes as part of the core curriculum that teach the importance of respectful and equal treatment to fellow classmates.
The lessons are part of the Steps to Respect program, which embeds an anti-bullying message in its lessons for children of all ages.
And Lind said that his school has seen a significant drop in behavior related suspensions and expulsions since implementing the Steps to Respect program.