New Missouri law aims to punish cyberbullies

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OZARK, Mo. (KSPR) - If you are a parent, you may think there is nothing you can do to stop your kids from being bullied online but that is where a new law in the Show-Me State comes in. House Bill 1583 lets schools punish bullies for off-campus, online cyber bullying.

This law requires schools to report what anti-bullying training staff takes. Here in Ozarks Schools, the more than 800 staff members are required to take 40 minutes of training.

Some students are glad staff members are learning to keep friends safe.

“I’ve never been bullied, but I’ve seen people get bullied before,” said 8th grader Colton Casteel.

Colton Casteel, 14, said it is tough watching bullies pick on people like his little sister.

“It makes me feel bad. I have to help her out if I need to,” Casteel said.

You can tell he loves her and does not want her to get hurt.

“It makes me want to go up to them and be like ‘hey quit it’,” said Casteel.

That is why he teaches her how to handle it.

“If she says, 'They’re making fun of my hair,' I say, 'They’re probably just jealous because they’re not as good as braiding as you are,' or something to make her feel good,” Casteel said.

Ozarks School District assistant superintendent,Craig Carson said staff is trying to do what Casteel does with his sister: show how to manage bullying.

“How do we handle it as adults? Sometimes part of a model we need to give kids is: 'Here is what a healthy mind does when it encounters this,'” Carson said.

It is a part of the Ozark School District's cyberbullying program, which Casteel said is important because, “With all the technology we have right now, it gives bullies a better chance to reach them,” Casteel said.

Ozarks School District staff said this new law requires the district to do what it is already doing.

“It’s best practice and it’s great to know we’re already on the right page. It’s not a shock to anyone’s system,” said Carson.

This is their message to the bullied: “You are who you are and it’s a blessing. It’s a gift of who you are. So you need to shine where you are and respect everyone,” Carson said.

Casteel could not agree more.

Ozarks School District has a new app where kids can report any bullying. School members hope this keeps kids safer.

Part of this law also requires schools to train staff on how to prevent student suicides. Ozarks School District will launch a new suicide awareness and prevention training next year. The state requires up to two hours of training.