What is your responsibility – legally and morally?

All semester, I have been asking my students how we can best help students, teachers, parents and community members understand their responsibility as it relates to how we treat others both face to face and online.  I began the semester wanting to create solutions to stomp out bullying/cyberbullying, but now I want to [delete] the word “bully” and the word “digital”. The focus needs to be on citizenship and how we treat others in the 21st century both face to face and online.  In a few short months I have learned, unlearned and relearned a lot, but one thing remains constant: I am committed to helping teachers understand their responsibility in creating a safe school climate for every child.

The Penn State scandal has rocked me.  How can following the protocol legally be enough?  What about making the best decision for the child?  That child could be your child, your sibling, your relative, your neighbor, your friend.  What is your moral responsibility?  The recent NY Times article, The Devil and Joe Paterno, said it best, “No higher cause can trump that obligation — not a church, and certainly not a football program. And not even a lifetime of heroism can make up for leaving a single child alone, abandoned to evil, weeping in the dark.”

My question to you is what is your responsibility legally and morally? What happens when you witness an unkind or evil act?  The question posed is a natural fit for both my undergraduate and graduate course on citizenship in the 21st century.  How do we help our K-12 students understand their responsibility?

I am on a crusade to make a difference and I hope you will join me!




  • As a coach of a high profile college football team, to be part of a cover up of the assault of who knows how many young boys makes someone completely unreliable. Even if legally Paterno did the right thing, the fact that he would delay reporting it to a higher authority shows a lack of moral fiber and either disrespect or apathy towards these poor unsuspecting boys. It is our responsibility to act in the best interest of ourselves and those around us, even if the law isn’t a factor I believe as cohabitants of the same community, or planet that we have an obligation to stop and tell someone when something isn’t right. To act on reporting a sexual assault because it’s the law is just like saying I fed myself today because otherwise I’d die. Acting automatically based on your morals is what separates you from a responsible and reliable member of the community and a law abiding automaton.

  • My responsibility legally and morally is to report those that say and do wrong in the media. Help to spread the word about the negative acts and negative affects cyber bullying can have. I feel as though I have some responsibility to let young people know who have yet to know and understand the consequences and bad outcomes this can all have on the world. When someone witnesses and unkind or evil act is it hoped for someone to speak up and have and maybe even be a voice for those in need of help. We can help young adults and children understand their responsibility by explaining their responsibilities as citizens and people who have the capability to open their mouths and use them. Whether it be to help themselves or someone else in trouble.

  • When a child, or anyone in that matter, is in danger, legally responsibilities are not good enough. If we see someone being hurt or someone in danger, we need to do everything in our power that we can to secure their safety. As hard of a decision as it may be, the right actions need to be taken to help all the people in danger in this world. I think that by teaching children at a young age that it is their responsibly to help those around them, then we can really help make a difference. Shaping the minds of young individuals to engage them in helping and protecting those around them can change our society as we know it. If we even see something a little suspicious, we need to bring it to attention. We have the ability to make a change and spread the word. Everyone needs to be engaged in choosing the responsible action when it comes to the safety and security of all people.

  • This is absolutely insane. I just don’t know why someone would do something this horrible, what goes through the mind of a criminal while they’re committing the act? My moral responsibility would be to make sure this coach gets what’s coming to him and help the victims who were traumatized during this experience. Legally, I would tell the authorities and make sure this guy goes down.

  • That is disgusting. I don’t care who I saw doing that, if it were me watching my husband or brother, or even father doing something like that…. I would put them in jail without even a second thought about it. I f I were there I would have quickly taken a cell phone video, and taken it to the police with names and addresses. That’s that. It may be legal to do what he did, but it was definitely immoral.

  • This is sick. I don’t see why someone would do something so terrible. If I was to witness something so drastic going on my gut reaction would be to make sure this guy never comes this close to a child ever again.

  • This whole situation disturbs me. i think this is issue and all similar issues comes from people deciding to only do what is required. as a society it has become ok for people to do the bare minimum. how do we decide that enough has been done ,what is the thought process. i believe that we have a duty to do all we can and all we know is right. i blieve this coach knew calling the police was the right thing a step more than what was required legally but we can not only concern ourselves with the law but what is right and wrong as far as human nature. my other concern is all the blame placed on this one man however everyone in this situation could have done more and i dont understand why we often was h our hands of situaions that only require a little effor to make a change

  • This is a point that is often missed when addressing cyber cruelty or unkindness. In all of the research I have done about cyber cruelty I have only seen TWO pieces stating how important it is to create a culture of kindness. As educators it goes beyond us telling children to apologize to each other when they say hurtful things. It’s more than us having Morning Meeting. Or reading books that highlight human interactions. Engaging in conversations like this are important. It helps us examine our own actions and inaction. It brings to our attention a call to actions and what our role is.

  • Hurting people hurt people. The hurt is often many levels deep meaning, the bully is often bullied. We need to slow down as a society and observe and listen to those that are hurting. It seems that we are not listening nor observing our children. We need to encourage a safe environment for active listening in our schools and other forums. I believe we are just now uniting as a whole, working together to help these young children find a voice.

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