Seminole schools bullying policy includes social media posts off campus

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. —

Students in Seminole County could be punished for what they post on Facebook and through other social media, even if they post it outside of school.

The district is updating its policy on bullying to include disciplinary action for cyberbullying and WFTV has learned that administrators are now able to investigate that type of bullying, no matter where it happens.

 In Polk County, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick took her own life after, investigators said, she was stalked and bullied by classmates online.

 "That is the last thing we want to happen here," said Lisa Page, a prevention specialist for Seminole County Public Schools.

 Seminole County is updating its own policy on bullying. Social media posts made off campus are now punishable if they impact a student in school.

 "It requires administrators to investigate, whereas before, if it was an off-campus or jurisdictional situation, it was their choice," said Page.

 The update to the policy not only includes posts made while on a school-owned computer, it covers anything a student may post that's harassing or degrading on their personal computer or their cellphone.

 WFTV combed through the policies for seven other school districts and found Seminole County is one of the last to put a rule of this type in writing. Only Volusia and Marion counties require the bullying stem from a district device.

Orange, Osceola, Lake, Brevard and Polk county schools already discipline for cyberbullying outside the classroom.

"They are bothered in such a way that they feel like there's no more hope, they're hopeless.  So sometimes they resort to means like what we hear about, what just happened in Polk County," said Page.

 School officials said if the bullying affects a student's work they are legally able to discipline those who are doing the online bullying, and that they can bring law enforcement in to help deal with the issue.

 Teachers in Seminole County went through an intense bullying training course during summer break.