Author Archives: admin9
Author Archives: admin9
We’ve been huge fans of Jimmy Kimmel since the days of “The Man Show” and “Win Ben Stein’s Money”. So we were a bit shocked when we saw the 3 minute bit Jimmy ran:
Notice that map? That’s our map:
This isn’t the first time Jimmy has been accused of stealing jokes. Last month, Jimmy allegedly stole a whole bunch of jokes from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Oscars. Judah Friedlander also accused Kimmel of stealing a joke.
So I guess we’re not surprised – just saddened. Jimmy literally took the extra effort and completely got rid of our logo or any mention of us.
Since this isn’t the first, second, or even third time, we made a little rap sheet for Jimmy.
Check it out:
We’re not like Jimmy either – that beautiful, royalty free image was taken by Romina Espinosa. Romina, whoever and wherever you are, we’d love to hear the story behind that picture!
Finally – Jimmy and team: Our lawyer says we have a pretty good case. We’re still thinking about it. But we’ll let bygones be bygones if you and Guillermo sing I’m Sorry, So Sorry to the BackgroundChecks.org team. No need to ask us – just go ahead, do it, and upload to your YouTube channel.
Children and teens, who are just learning to navigate social relationships, often find themselves in social situations that are fraught with awkward exchanges. When the line between normal, even acceptable, playful teasing crosses into bullying, problems arise. It’s often difficult for them, and even adults, to discern when teasing becomes bullying, and when a laughing together becomes laughing at someone else’s expense.
Simply put, bullying can be boiled down to unwanted social attention. While it can be subtle or blatant; take place online, or in public; be physical or aggressive; there are a few characteristics that can help define bullying.
RIP is a good mnemonic to help remember the key elements of defining bullying behavior:
Bullying is repetitive, especially after the bullied person has asked for it to stop; thus, the bully is aware that s/he is causing the bullied person(s) physical/emotional discomfort, and furthering the power dynamic. Additionally, bullying is often focused, repeatedly, on the same person, or groups of people.
Bullying is done with the intent of hurting others. This can be physically, or emotionally. A bully is fully aware that they are hurting their targets, and do it anyway.
In general, a bully (or group of bullies) is in a position of social, or physical, power over the person(s) s/he is bullying. The misconception about bullying is that it’s done only by (a) physically strong person(s), or a popular person(s).
Bullying behaviors can range from anything to excluding others from social groups, to physical aggression. It is a wide range that includes verbal, social and physical behaviors. For example, verbal, physical and social behaviors are all included in the definition of bullying.
Physical Bullying can range from intimidation, threats, and assault. Bullies can resort to any form of violence, such as pushing, kicking, punching or other such examples.
Childhood Example: A child pushes another child down, and steals his toy, or swing, at the playground.
Teen Example: One teen accidentally-on-purpose bumps into another in the hallway, between classes, spilling his books and papers.
Daven, who was bullied as a child, tells Parents and Teens Against Bullying.org, that the constant physical abuse that he endured from his bully, such as flicking, punching, and even having his bully’s snot wiped on him, was humiliating. He describes the effect of this time as isolating, and full of self-doubt, and that like most victims of bullies, he regrets not involving an adult. Daven lived to tell his tale, and recognize that, in his words, “bullying is the weak choice,” but, according to a Yale University study, bullied victims are up to 9% more likely to consider suicide; and, in the UK, some studies have linked up to half of youth suicides to bullying.
Verbal/Social Bullying/Relational Bullying
Verbal bullying includes harassment in the form of teasing and taunting, such as name calling, manipulation, and spreading false rumors. According to StopBullying.gov, this is meant to destroy the victim’s reputation. Perhaps, most painful, relational and social bullying is also about socially isolating a victim, and making him/her feel like they don’t belong to their peer group.
Childhood Example: You are a poopie pants! You can’t play with us because you smell bad! We don’t play with poopie pants!
Teen Example: A group of girls stops talking as soon as Jennifer approaches. Jennifer, until a few weeks ago, considered those girls her best friends. She asks what their plans are for the weekend, and the girls exchange glances with one another, snicker, and one girl replies, “um, nothing you’d want to do.” The rest of the girls laugh. Jennifer walks away, and the girls immediately start talking and laughing again.
An Anonymous girl shares that her social isolation lead to her eventual need to be home-schooled, via a cyber-program. She says that it all started with a group of girls and a rumor that spread like wildfire; the anonymous victim lost all of her friends, and became increasingly isolated by her bullies. Still, she was not at peace, because her bullies created false social media accounts to leave cruel and taunting messages and comments on her social media pages. She wasn’t safe from their isolation, even in isolation. Ultimately, when she returned to school, her bullies weren’t finished with her. She tried to stand up for herself, but to no avail. Not unlike many bullying situations, this one doesn’t simply end; it trails on and on, highlighting administrative need for no-contact and knock-it-off policies.
Online bullying consists of harassing a victim through social media, text message, email and other messaging systems. It also includes using a school’s online resources, or false online accounts to destroy a person’s online reputation.
Childhood Example: Depends on the social media access a child has.
Teen Example: Nice bathing suit. Ever hear of a diet? Or the gym?
There is almost no end to the examples of online bulling stories in the media these days. For example, Hannah Smith, was taunted mercilessly regarding her weight, skin condition, and even a death in her family, on the messaging site Ask.fm, for weeks leading up to her suicide in 2013. Or, there is the story of Grace K. McComas, who was cyberbullied for months leading up to her suicide in 2012.
Online bullying may have a sexual component, such as blackmail, as the bully may have access to compromising information or explicit content. The misconception is that the teen always sends the compromising material to the bully themselves. This isn’t always the case; and even if it were, it doesn’t, or shouldn’t matter. For example, in the case of Erin Andrews, the TV Sportscaster and personality who was famously involved in the “peephole” video and subsequent cyber-bullying saga, she was videotaped, in the nude, in her hotel rooms, as she traveled for work, without her knowledge over the course of several years. Her life and career was nearly destroyed by a bully, and she continues to endure cyberbullies who tweet and message her regularly about the incident. Often, teens have photos (or videos) taken of them in bathrooms, through windows, or when they are unconscious. The very real pain at the loss of reputation, coupled with the mockery from peers, can be devastating.
Take the suicide of Jessica (Jesse) Logan, a typical, otherwise happy high school senior from Ohio, who sexted a nude to her boyfriend. They broke up, and he cruelly sent the photo to everyone at their school. She tried to soldier on, but her grades dropped, she started skipping school, and to make it through the day, she’d hide in the bathroom to avoid the students who were calling her a slut, and a whore. She even tried to make the best of a bad situation, going on a local news program as a victim’s advocate for cyberbullying, hoping to prevent something similar from happening to someone else. But, after attending the funeral for someone else, another suicide, Jesse came home and hung herself in her closet.
Bullying can seem random, sometimes; but current research shows that nearly a quarter of students report being bullied. There is some data to suggest that certain types of students are at more risk for bullies than others, and certain personalities are more at risk for being bullies than others.
Students who are more likely to be bullied are generally perceived as “different” than their peers. LGBT youth, and those with disabilities, are especially at risk. However, these, and others, are protected under the law, from such provocation. For example, race, religion ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and disability are all protected classes, under national law. Schools should all be versed on law, and have policies in place to protect these students, should conflicts arise.
Aside from the general idea of those who are less popular than the “in crowd,” students who simply don’t get along well with others, appear anxious, or are unable to defend themselves against provocation are easy targets for bullies. Of course, those who look different than others are always targets for bullies as well; this means that those who are overweight, or who dress differently, or wear their hair in a different fashion. None of the above list will necessarily guarantee that someone will be harassed, but it will certainly not help, if a bully is out to get them.
Often, educators focus on the victims of bullying, and fail to identify the types of students who can become bullies, and therefore don’t intervene before there’s a potential problem. But, it’s equally important to help the bully; according to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Group, 60 percent of boys who were bullies in middle school had a criminal conviction by 24. Shockingly, 40 percent had three or more convictions.
Bullies are born from students who are not only overly-concerned with social status, but also with dominance over their weaker peers to bolster, or mask, their own self-esteem issues. Bullies that turn to physical aggression, not surprisingly, often have issues with violent behavior, and with following rules and standards, and often “hang” with the wrong crowd. Perhaps most importantly, according to a University of Washington and Indiana University Study, administrators may be able to spot them early and intervene, by noting that bullies are far more likely to come from troubled and violent homes.
The same qualities of repeated, intentional, and social/psychological power plays are involved with cyberbullying. The only difference is that the bullying takes place via electronic mediums such as cell phones, computers or other electronic devices. Cyberbullying can be threatening text messages, e-mails; or, it can even rumors or information posted on public, social media sites or message boards. It can take place exclusively online; or, bullies can combine cyberbullying with traditional bullying.
It’s easy to confuse cyberbullying with cyberstalking, especially because we often hear these words used interchangeably, sometimes. It’s especially easy to become confused because cyberbullying has an element of stalking to it: the relentless messaging, the social media pages, and the ability to track the victim, online.
However, cyberstalking is a bit different. Cyberstalking is a repetitive, malicious vendetta often with no legitimate purpose, ironically against a very personal target, carried out with premeditation and obsessive zeal. Cyberstalkers disregard all warnings to stop their illegal activity, and reasonable reasons to stop (like that they are causing distress to another human being).
Cyberbullying is, in many ways, different than “typical” bullying. Cyberbullying is primarily psychological, as it’s perpetrated through social manipulation and intimidation via messaging and interference with one’s social status through message boards and groups. The primary, and most important, difference between cyberbullying, and traditional bullying, is that it can, and often does, occur 24-hours a day. Cyberbullying takes the “repetition part of bullying to the extreme.
Victims have no respite, or safe place, from their bullies. If they are being bullied on their cell phones, their message beep can go off, even in the safety of their bedroom, even when they are asleep. If they are gaming, involved in a safe community of peer players, it can quickly be infiltrated by bullies who attack them with brutal messages, or ostracization.
Another major difference with cyberbullying is that the “power” may not be the same typical social or physical imbalance that a typical bully has over their victim. Instead, a cyberbully may have access to virtual information, such as an “incriminating,” message, e-mail, or photograph that the victim doesn’t want anyone else to see. This is still an imbalance of power, but not in the traditional sense. It changes the power dynamic, and makes power somewhat of a grey area in the bully/victim relationship, as the bully may have access to this information because they were formerly close, or even intimate, with their victim.
Worst of all, much of cyber bullying, especially among older students, is sometimes sexually motivated, or sexually graphic. Even if untrue, cyber bullying can spread false rumors, ruining reputations through social groups. While the CDC reports that sexual promiscuity among teens is down, with an average of less than 30% of teens having engaged in sexual activity in the previous three months, 21% of those surveyed had been drinking or doing drugs, prior to sexual activity. With inhibitions lowered, photos, texts and videos are a problem.
The subjects of the new Netflix document documentary, Audrie and Daisy (2016), are teenage girls who both admit to drinking more than they normally would one night. These girls learn the hard way that the boys they thought they trusted to care for them at their worst are only lying in wait for their weakest moments, snapping photos of them as they disrobe them, probe their nude bodies, and then spreading videos, texts or rumors around their respective schools. Audrie’s will doesn’t withstand the torturous rigor of the texts, emails and constant shaming she feels at the loss of her reputation; she commits suicide. Daisy attempts to kill herself several times, especially when she learns that her perpetrators will not face sexual assault charges, and she’s called a liar and a whore by her fellow students, former friends via text and message, relentlessly.
However, not all victims of cyberbullying find online contact distressing. In fact, according to the Second Youth Internet Safety Survey, 38% of students weren’t bothered by being harassed online. It was only when online harassment crossed into offline harassment as well, did they feel upset by e-bullying.
Estimates of victims of cyberbullying vary; some studies find as many as 40% of students have reported incidents of cyberbullying. According to the CDC, 15% of high school students have reported being electronically bullied, in the past year; and, according to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, 7% of students between grades 6-12 experienced cyber-bullying. Noting that cyberbullying appears to more than double, when restricted to high school students, but is reported early, begs intervention and knowledge regarding how students are engaging, and how to intervene as early as possible.
Cyberbullying.org conducted a study that made it especially clear to students what the definition of cyberbullying is. They told students that cyberbullying meant “repeatedly mak[ing] fun of another person online, or repeatedly pick[ing] on another person through email or text message; or when someone posts something online about another person that they don’t like.” With this definition, about 25% of 10,000 randomly selected 11-18 year olds reported that they’d been cyberbullied (over the past seven years); but only 12% in the past year (January 2014). 17% admitted to cyberbullying others in the past seven years; and only 4% admitted to bullying others in the past year.
This data tells us that while we may have been behind, figuring out this arena where students have been harassing their peers, programs and procedures that are designed to target and reduce it, are working. Therefore, we need to continue to both recognize and highlight cyberbullying as a problem, and we need to work toward positive and effective solutions to eliminate it.
Identifying cyberbullying starts by realizing that you need to look for both victims and bullies. Unlike traditional bullying, victims and bullies share some similar behaviors, such as hiding their phone screens from teachers, quickly minimizing computer browser windows from adults, or refuses to discuss their online activity with adults (or others). However, victims and bullies do behave differently in other ways.
Identifying Cyberbully Victims
In this video, despite some of the out dated technology, we see many the examples of a “typical,” cyberbully, and a “typical,” cyberbullying victim. The bully makes attempts to socially isolate the victim, makes him feel socially inferior, and is cruel. The victim withdraws at home, seems sad and refuses to discuss his problem with his mother, quickly hiding all evidence.
According to recent data, students are less likely to report cyberbullying when their school promotes a climate with safe peer-to-peer relationships, and a generally safe environment. Currently, there is not enough research on this nebulous topic; but according to Cyberbyullying.org, students who agreed with statements such as, “feel[ing] safe at school,” feel[ing] that teachers at their school really try to help them succeed,” and “feel[ing] that teachers at their school care about them,” were less likely to report either being victims of cyberbullying, or being cyberbullies themselves. The good news, is that while incidents of cyberbullying are up more than 50 percent in the last five years, nearly 70 percent of students who felt harassed sought help from a trusted friend, parent, or other adult authority figure, leaving room for trusted practices to work.
There’s no room for bystanders in bullying. With over 80% of teens using a cell phone, it’s difficult to catch; but, that’s why it’s important for adults to be engaged in the lives of young people and adolescents. Ask questions. Be involved. Notice when things are different. Quite simply: pay attention. And remember, bystanders are victims too. Bystanders report symptoms of anxiety, guilt and shame associated with incidents of bullying.
There’s a relatively simple list of items/ideas that can help in any cyberbullying situation:
Be a friend to youth. Or, encourage your children to have an adult friend. It’s okay if your children feel more comfortable confiding in a coach, or teacher; just make sure they feel comfortable confiding in someone.
Mediation can sometimes help resolve a bullying situation, if it’s a misunderstanding that has blown out of proportion. Attempt a talk-it-out situation carefully, if you engage a trained counselor as a mediator and you are confident that violence won’t escalate.
Make sure you visit websites that your children frequent, with them, and learn the ins and outs of the pages. Get to know their online “friends,” and be aware of their online activity. Know when things change.
It’s never a good idea to add fuel to a fire; so, teach your children not to respond to cyberbullies. Don’t give them any information, respond to any messages, or let them know that they are bothering you. In many ways, this is not much different than traditional bullying; as emotional as it may seem, leaving it alone, may be the best answer.
Despite the grey areas of the laws, cyberbullying and cyberstalking are against the law. While there is some potential shame and fear associated with cyberbullying, especially if it’s related to sexual activity, or rule-breaking such as underage drinking or drug use, it’s vital that kids and teens are instructed to never delete any harassing messages.
All online services, such as Facebook, or even Craigslist, have reporting services to report unauthorized, or inappropriate usage, and cyberbullying. Without screenshots and evidence, it’s almost impossible to enforce their policies, however. Utilize their reporting services, and provide them with the evidence you’ve saved to quickly put an end to “small” incidents of cyberbullying.
Most schools have resource officers; engage them, and make sure they are aware of incidents of cyberbullying among the students in their purview. More importantly, make sure that they are aware of the laws that govern cyberbullying in their state, and how to enforce them. Resource officers are specially trained to deal with students and adolescents; sometimes, simply allowing the resource officer to intervene is enough to scare the cyberbully into stopping, rather than engaging criminal charges. However, if activity continues, or if harassment is especially malicious, engage the entire team and report activity to the local and state authorities.
If the bullying is especially pervasive or violent, and as such is affecting the learning environment, it is important to make sure that students are supervised and kept apart as much as possible, both to protect their safety, and to keep other students from being affected. It’s important to make sure that the situation is left to fizzle, rather than ignite. An adult can be provided to walk a student to class, to sit nearby, but not necessarily with the student, in the cafeteria, for example.
An anti-bullying task manager or team manager should be assigned at the elementary through high school level to work with faculty, administrators, counselors and staff to be kept abreast of all new information in the field, and to have “boots on the ground,” as it were, with the students. Engage a staff member who cares about bullying, stopping it, and about student mental health.
Zero-tolerance sounds good on paper, and it sounds good to parents; but, for kids it can sound scary and it can make them afraid to report bullying for fear of reprisal, perhaps even fearing that they may be disciplined themselves, as part of the bullying scenario. Zero tolerance policies have their merits, but it’s important to recognize their limits when dealing with complex bullying scenarios, adolescents and teens.
Parents are a valuable resource. In many cases, they will be the ones who will be able to tell you if the student’s eating, sleeping, or behavior habits have drastically changed, which will help sound the alarm to a more serious situation. Additionally, parents are a great resource to help reinforce school policy; as administrators you want them on your team, so listen to their needs and be conscious of them. Their primary concern, and yours, is stopping their child’s hurt.
Community leaders, especially city and county leaders such as mayors and city council members have taken strong roles in speaking out against anti-bullying. Take the time to engage them in speaking at your school, or in writing letters to your students. Engage your local sports teams, or other civic leaders to form a culture of anti-bullying at your school.
The best way to prevent bullying, of any kind, is to create an environment where bullying isn’t tolerated or condoned. In an ideal world, this is easy. All students love one another, and everyone gets along. There’s no gossip, everyone’s a star athlete, plays in the school band, and gets straight A’s. But, that’s not how it works. So, StompOutBullying, makes these Top 20 suggestions for “Stomping Out” Bullying in your school:
- Don’t laugh
- Don’t encourage the bully
- Stay at a safe distance, and help the target get away
- Don’t become an “audience” for the bully
- Reach out and become a friend to a bullying victim
- Help the victim in any way that you can
- Support the victim in private
- If you notice someone being isolated, invite them to join you
- Include the victim in some of your activities
- Tell an adult if you see bullying, or are being bullied
- Encourage your school to participate in bullying or cyberbullying prevention programs
- Start a peer mentoring program at school
- Raise awareness of bullying and cyberbullying prevention in your community
- Teach friends about being more tolerant of others, even if they are different
- Ask your school to set up a private box where kids who are bullied can report it, anonymously
- Get someone to sponsor a conflict resolution team
- Encourage school administrators to adopt Internet-use policies that address online hate, harassment and pornography
- Create events in your school and community to raise anti-bullying, and bullying prevention awareness.
- Create bullying prevention awareness posters for your school
- Stand up and do something when you hear someone making jokes or comments about: someone’s sexual identity, family member(s), weight, clothing, skin color, accent, or disability.
Consider allowing the use of smart phones, especially with apps like SitWithUs, an app designed especially for bullied kids, by a teenager, a victim of bullying herself. The app is designed for kids with no one to sit with in the school cafeteria; they can designate themselves as “alone,” and hope that someone else, an ambassador, will see their avatar and invite them to their table, or vice versa. So far, it’s being used in lunchrooms across the country, and even internationally. It prevents kids from being openly rejected, if they stroll up to a table, and try to make a new friend, while simultaneously being invited to be friends with new people. It means never having to eat alone, and never being rejected.
Currently, cyberbullying is covered at the state level. All states have laws covering cyberbullying, but there is a wide range of what is allowable, for prosecution, or what is considered legal, or protected, under the letter of the law. The Cyberbullying Research Center keeps an updated, interactive map of what states have what laws, including those proposed.
Importantly, laws must consider the fact that cyberbullying can occur both on and off campus. So, laws have to be proposed in such a way that educators have to make a determination whether cyberbullying that happens off campus is having a noticeable detrimental effect on the learning environment on campus. To understand the confusion, realize that states either have decided on criminal sanctions, school sanctions, school policy, or an off-campus policy (or a combination of these).
These terms can be confusing, because they all sound so similar.
A threatened penalty for disobeying.
Because cyberbullying (and bullying) can be classified as a crime, it is subject to criminal punishments.
Schools get to create and adopt their own disciplinary measures and policies.
The bullying law requires all states, apart from Montana, to set an anti-bullying policy to both identify behaviors and disciplinary policies.
In some states, the bullying law gives the school latitude to discipline students in certain appropriate ways.
As mentioned above, schools are allowed to discipline students for off-campus behavior, if they’ve determined that it disrupts the on-campus learning environment.
California has a “Yes” in all four categories above, for example; as does New Jersey, Louisiana and Pennsylvania and Tennessee. However, states like Wyoming are only 50% yes and 50% no. There are wide variations from state-to-state.
In some cases, felony harassment charges can be brought against cyberbullies; but, there is currently no federal laws against cyberbullying, specifically. The only specific federal laws, are those that can be brought against protected classes, as mentioned in Section 1. Protected classes, such as those with disabilities, LGBT, or minorities should be versed in the following federal laws. School administrators and staff should obviously be equally aware.
Education and information is part of the answer to stopping cyberbullying. Teaching our kids how to respond to harassment properly, and teaching our kids how not to bully, is a big part of the solution. So, how soon is too soon to teach kids about cyberbullying?
Kid’s Health recommends framing discussions about bullying, in general, as early as Pre-K, in age-appropriate ways. Eyes On Bullying agrees, pointing out that, often, people overlook early childhood years in bullying prevention, because they underestimate both children’s intelligence, and their emotional maturity. Teach InCntrl promotes cyberbullying education for all students across all areas of the curriculum.
Bullying in very young children can look very different, however, with a strong tendency toward subtle bullying for girls and physical bullying for boys. In an example described in their book, Dr. Storey and Dr. Slaby describe a scenario in which a preschool girl, sitting at lunch begins a game in which she questions the children at her table, requiring them to raise their hands for affirmative responses with prompts like, “who likes X, Y, Z.” All of her prompts are things that all children would be sure to respond in the affirmative to, such as candy, movies and the like. But, when she gets to the end of her inquiries, she asks, “and who likes Madeline?” This is the beginning of social bullying.
hey suggest bullying education for children begin as early as preschool with social skills education, while they develop the language skills to express the feelings they are having. It’s important to catch bullying behaviors while they are happening and reappoint them into appropriate social interactions. Story time and circle, or morning meeting time, they suggest, is a good time to use examples and engagement to point out appropriate ways to interact with peers, and to define the line between teasing and taunting.
Additionally, they recommend the key life skills of empathy, problem solving and assertiveness to both address bullying, and to prevent becoming one. To learn empathy, they suggest that students learn to label their feelings and that they learn to compare themselves to others in a way that helps them appreciate their differences. Additionally, helping others to feel better teaches children to feel better about themselves, and helps reinforce the “golden rule.” Problem solving activities, such as team-work, and rudimentary what-if scenarios help preschoolers learn to deal with frustration in a safe environment to build their self-confidence. Assertion activities, such as teaching kids to keep their cool, and role-playing response scenarios, and learning when to ignore and when to get help are important tools for preschoolers to both build their self-esteem, and to understand the complexities of bullying scenarios.
There are several, national anti-bullying resource centers set up to both provide information, and to direct victims, parents, and educators to required resources. For example, the Victims of Crime Resource Center Hotline is reachable at 1-800-Victims, and through their website. Additionally, The Cyberbullying Research Center provides links to not only report bullying on all major social media sites, but also information and resources to victims, nationwide. StopBullying.gov also provides access to both information and links to both national phone number databanks, and links to local counselors.
StompOutBullying is a national website with a 24-7 web-chat service for teens to find access to help for support about bullying. Trained counselors monitor the chat room to provide support and assistance to teens who are looking for advice. Additionally, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s (AACP) website provides a clearinghouse of both information about bullying and cyberbullying, but also links to resources and links to counseling services in your child’s area.
New social media sites pop up seemingly every day. And, just as quickly fade away. Keeping up with what your tweens and tweens are doing online, and who they are doing it with, is important to helping them avoid both their being cyberbullied, or becoming one. For example, a newer(ish) social media site, Musical.ly has taken social media by storm, often outranking Snapchat and Instagram in the App Store. Musical.ly, a seemingly harmless video sharing site, where people can lip-sync to their favorite tunes, is no different than other social media sites, in terms of potential for cyberbullying or predatory danger. Privacy and user settings, and parental oversight can go a long way in preventing many dangerous, and harassment situations.
While it seems, sometimes, that Facebook set the gold standard for social media, it seems that teens began migrating away from it sometime ago. Still, they have a bullying prevention hub, especially targeted at teens. In their hub is access to a PDF, which includes step-by-step instructions and conversation starter ideas for teens who have found themselves in harassment scenarios.
The first step, is always to unfriend someone who is bothering you, and block offensive people. Of course, if there are false accounts out there, this can become problematic, and like cutting the head off of a hydra, but start there. And, FB warns that blocking is reciprocal, so you won’t be able to see what they post about you anymore, which can make you feel antsy, wondering if, on their page, false information about you is spreading like wildfire, now that you can’t see it anymore. Still, FB warns that the best steps are to stay calm and not to retaliate. They suggest that if there is something you find particularly offensive, you can delete it from the areas of FB that you have access to, but warn to save things you may need as evidence, if required. Additionally, they provide scripts and prompts to start conversations with people about how to calmly approach online bullies.
Interestingly, the provide the opposite side of the scenario. They provide resources for the bully. They consider what it might be like to be approached by a victim, and be blindsided as a bully, perhaps not even aware that they’ve committed an offensive act. They provide advice for the bully and suggest the most appropriate behaviors if you have been told that you’ve done something offensive to another person. For example, they suggest that you take the other person’s feelings into account, before you get angry and offended, and that the first thing you should do is apologize.
Block and Delete. The most common advice of any website is going to start with these simple instructions. If you are being bothered by “troll,” especially in an isolated incident, which, on a site like YouTube is the most likely scenario, the first place they advise starting is to delete offending comments, or to ask the user to do so, and block offensive users. YouTube does have specific polices against hate speech; for example, they do not allow violence or hate speech against anyone based on race or ethnic origin, relation, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity. They also have specific policies against setting up fake accounts, “Impersonation,” and any suspicion of such accounts should be reported immediately. YouTube also has very strict policies against Child Endangerment as it applies to depicting sex with minors, so sharing videos of underage children engaged in any sexual activity, is strictly prohibited and should absolutely be reported, especially as it pertains to cyberbullying situations. In these cases, being a bystander is against the law, not only against YouTube policy.
However, the rest of YouTube policy is a little greyer. For example, their policy regarding sexually explicit content is prohibitive when it comes to violent, humiliating or graphic fetish, but is inclusive when it comes to nudity when it is educational, documentary or artistic. Additionally, its graphic or violent content policy is essentially a free pass, so long as its journalistic, and especially if the title is descriptive and/or there is an especially clear warning to viewers.
Threats are taken seriously, and they caution that law enforcement should be engaged immediately; however. But, their policy on harmful or dangerous content, such as videos of drug use or of dangerous “challenges” such as the choking challenge, they deem allowable if the primary purpose is educational, documentary or scientific. Finally, they caution that the best way to avoid anything you don’t want to see is the block and delete button.
Because of Instagram’s user settings, and communication settings, it’s particularly easy for cyberbullies to contact, and harass their victims, in various ways. For example, users can add cruel comments and hashtags to user’s photos, or create unflattering photos and attach them to a user’s photo/profile. Instagram has a reporting process for harassment and bullying.
Snapchat’s 10-second-and-it’s-gone makes it both easier, and more difficult for cyberbullies. It allows them to take incriminating photos, sometimes without the victim even realizing it, and send harassment without evidence lasting long enough to be traced. However, with quick knowledge of how to take a screenshot, a victim can track harassment, and there’s a way to stop the onslaught of constant messages. Snapchat has community guidelines, such as no pornography, and protecting someone’s privacy, such as not taking pics without someone else’s knowledge. And, Snapchat’s policy is no screenshots, despite their anti-bullying stance. It’s a nebulous arena. Still, they also have a reporting area; but also recommend a block first policy.
Snapchat does have policies to protect user’s privacy, and to prevent bullying. Primarily, to prevent cyberbullying, they do not allow for invasions of privacy, such as taking snaps of others without their knowledge. Additionally, they don’t allow for impersonation, much like YouTube, which means creating fake accounts, even to impersonate celebrities. Finally, they have a strict no-harassment policy, which means once someone has blocked you, you may not continue to harass them from another account, or from a new account. Their no-nudity policy, especially for those under 18 can contribute to a no-bullying environment by not allowing for embarrassing content, because it even prohibits sexually explicit drawings on otherwise benign snaps.
According to both Buzzfeed News, and CIO, Twitter’s refusal to appropriately deal with cyberbullying and online abuse and harassment has drug the social media giant to near death. Twitter promises a revamp and an absolute focus on the issue. Their current advice starts with the same advice as the others: ignore, block and unfollow. They do have a reporting process on their website.
Skype’s online communities are a great way to meet and befriend all kinds of people, for all kinds of reasons, with all kinds of interests; however, there are all kinds of ways to find trouble when the world is so big. Communities on Skype can often help police themselves, with members reporting to one another when they are having trouble, and using the block and ignore feature. But, like all other social media features, Skype also has a report feature, depending on which interface you are using.
Messenger and other chat forums rely on a community standard of “knowing” who you are talking to, rather than primarily stranger interaction, such as YouTube. The best way to avoid harassment is to be engaged with friends and people you are comfortable with, not with strangers. However, like all teens and tweens, social groups change, and falling outs occur, which can spill over into an online community setting. Again, ignore, block and delete when there’s trouble. If there’s evidence, save it. If there’s serious trouble, report it.
Much can be drawn from the raw data provided by bullying surveys. The primary data-gatherers on this topic are the CDC, The National Center for Education Statistics, and The Cyberbullying Research Center. Each of these sources compiles and gathers separate, but equally important sets of data that give us vital information.
When looked at, over time, from 2007, through 2016, the rate of reported cyberbullying offenders has declined sharply from 19.1% to 12.0% of students reporting self-reporting; however, the rates also fluctuate significantly from year to year, sometimes as much as 5-7%. Cyberbullying.org compiles data from ten different studies to gather an average of roughly 15.8% students who reported cyberbullying others, across the 9-year study period, with a low of 11.5% reporting in 2009, with an especially low sample class size. Intriguingly, the study compilation shows a sharp decrease in bullies self-reporting in 2009, suggesting that cyber bullying education has been helpful, but then an uptick to outpace 2007 numbers in 2010, and nearly again in 2011. It’s baffling to educators to figure out what works, and what doesn’t, to prevent bullying, when numbers like this present themselves over long spaces of time.
Intriguingly, victimization rates are nearly double the self-reporting rates for bullies, which suggests that either bullies are bullying more than one victim, that victims feel victimized by actions that bullies don’t necessarily feel is bullying, or that bullies are under-reporting. And, unlike the chaotic rise and fall of the bully self-reporting, victimization rates seem on a steady climb since 2007, with the exception of two slight dips in 2010 and 2013. The average reporting rate for victims, compiled over ten studies from cyberbullying.org is 27.9% and includes cyber bullying in all forms, such as e-mail, in the classroom, and over other electronic media.
An interesting comparison to note is the difference between reported victimization rates between middle schoolers and lifetime victimization rates. The rate doubles (or even triples) in almost all cases. This suggest an almost “grace” period in middle school where educators might be able to reach students and target bullying education, before the problem erupts.
Cyber bullying does not appear to discriminate for gender. Unlike other types of bullying where, for example, physical aggression is more typically associated with males, and social aggression is more typically associated with females, cyber bullying is more equally distributed. Both genders appear to be equally associated with cyber bullying behaviors. The disassociated connection with screens makes it easier for both genders to engage with behaviors that they may not otherwise engage in, if they were faced with an individual, making it easier for both genders to engage in cyber bullying behaviors; it’s like it’s simultaneously happening to both a real, and a not-real person.
Subsequently, victims of cyberbullying are also, mostly, equally spread amongst gender. There’s a slightly larger number of reported lifetime female cyber bully victims, but in general, victims are equally spread between male and female, especially amongst the middle school population. This suggests, once again, that the magic moment to reach the student population with cyber bullying education is at the beginning of middle school.
According to cyberbullying.org, middle schoolers use the Internet for a wide variety of purposes, and in descending order, it’s first and foremost for online games and homework, and lastly for chat rooms. Having data like this helps educators fine-tune education programs and gear bullying messages for their students based on what they know their students will be using and where they might be encountering bullying messages.
Cyber bullying is part of a complex puzzle that, if reduced, improves student performance and success. But, we cannot forget things like the value of parental involvement, drug and alcohol education, other education on other teen behaviors that can affect student life, like sex education. For example, according to the CDC, for example, 10% of teens (over the age of 12) have used illicit drugs in the past month. And, it’s easy to forget, but many students come to school without having eaten a decent meal; in states like Missouri, over 20% of homes have food insecurity, not knowing where their next meal comes from. Alas, cyber bullying is a very important part of a student’s success, but it’s not the only piece of their puzzle.
And, in fact, determining the other pieces, and addressing those, may help suss out the cyber bullying problem. If a student is being bullied for being so-called promiscuous, for example; or, if a student is being bullied because he wears second-hand clothes; or, if a student is being bullied for getting bad grades; it’s obvious that knowing students is helpful. Additionally, having the appropriate district, counseling, and support services is vital to student success in all cases. There is no “stop bullying,” or even “zero tolerance,” in most cases. It is not as simple as enforcing a consequence, or mending a fence; it requires support for the victim, and likely for the bully.
Additionally, based on evidence, bullying education in primary and middle school grades is vital in prevention. As we become more screen-dependent, our children will be versed earlier in technology. Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ newly revised, and recently released, guidelines about screen time for young children, parents will continue to expose children to technology at younger ages, until they are practically programming satellites in the crib. If we are to expect our children to understand the limitless joy and knowledge that technology can bring, it is incumbent upon us to teach them the limitless responsibility that comes with it as well, including the responsibility they bear, as in all things, to not cause others pain.
Ohio started keeping records back in 1789. Some of the first records were property records and vital records like those that track births and deaths. Back then, records were kept on paper. Today, like most states, Ohio has embraced digital records. Back in the 1980s, the state started keeping electronic records and even started transferring old records to electronic ones.
Today, citizens of the United States can request Ohio records. You don’t need to live in Cleveland, Columbus, or any Ohio city to make a request.
To help people navigate the world of public records, which can be a little confusing, this guide can provide direction to criminal, inmate, court, and inmate records.
Ohio has a special history compared to other states in that its access to public records predates its actual statehood. A 1901 court decision stated explicitly that the public records are the people’s records, and unless there is a statute in place, the rights of the people to examine their records must remain in practice.
It must be noted however, that in Ohio, there are quite a few statutes that can hamper a public records search.
The public records act doesn’t provide a specific response time to a records request, it just says that request should be handled within a reasonable period of time.
If a request for records is denied, there isn’t an administrative appeal process in the state, but requesters can pay $25 and file a complaint to the Ohio Court of Claims, which has seven days to respond, and 45 days to issue a decision that is legally binding.
To learn more, visit Ohio.gov.
Some public records can be found online while others require a more formal request.
If a formal request is necessary, it can take place by mail, email, or by phone and should be directed to the record-holding department.
Every department is different, so expect some variation to the rules if you’re accessing records from multiple places.
In general, a public records request should include:
Due to COVID, some public offices may have limited hours of operation. As a result, online requests are best, but if you want to go in person you should call ahead.
In Ohio, The Identification Division of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation provides the latest records to employers who want to run background checks on potential employees. The division acts as the central repository for all felony records within the state, maintaining fingerprints, photographs, and other information related to criminal records in Ohio.
A criminal record provides a detailed report of a person’s interactions with law enforcement. These records are compiled from various sources and include arrest records, convictions, and incarcerations within the state’s nine prisons.
More specifically, a criminal record or a background check will provide the following information:
The Bureau of Crime Identification & Investigation (BCI&I), which is a subsidiary of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, offers WebCheck for civilian background checks. These checks are fairly quick, taking only a few hours to conduct, with the results available through the U.S. Postal Service. More information is available on Ohio’s WebCheck system.
For requests for a complete set of fingerprints for criminal records, a business check, money order, or e-payment made out to the Treasurer of the State of Ohio for $22 will begin the process.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for online, records can also be requested through the Sheriff’s Office in the county where the person lives. The fees associated with a request are minimal and some offices have no fees for background checks.
As the 6th largest prison system in America, Ohio operates 30 state prisons and possesses inmate records which comprise personal and official data of those that have been incarcerated by the state and held in Ohio’s jails, prisons, or penal institutions. The records of each inmate are typically held at the site of where the inmate resides and includes the following information:
The information listed on inmate records vary a bit from state to state; in Ohio the records usually contain a combination of personal information and specific details about a person’s incarceration situation. Public access to inmate records can provide the following information when accessed:
Inmate records in the state of Ohio can be searched through the Offender Search Tool that is available on the DRC website. To search for an inmate, input the inmate’s name and unique DOC number. The website is regularly updated. You can expect to find the location of a person, the jail’s contact information, inmate status, and any information regarding a release or pardon.
The Ohio Open Records Law passed in 1954 and guarantees that court records are available to any member of the public, thereby making it a fundamental right to all residents of Ohio. The records open to the general public include, sworn affidavits, documentation on allegations, and all proceedings taken under oath.
In a small percentage of cases, court records may be sealed or may have redaction for certain circumstances.
In most cases, court records are quite large and come with several varying documents. Most people find these documents the most helpful:
Finding court records in the state of Ohio is fairly complicated. While other states have created an online portal to house and search court records, Ohio has not.
The best way to access court records is to search for the county court or municipal court where the case was heard. Some countries do have records available online. Franklin County, for example, has an online database of cases.
If a county doesn’t have an online database, you need to speak with the county clerk or the clerk of courts and put in a records request.
The Ohio Supreme Court also provides an extensive number of court files online. To begin a search, visit the state’s supreme court website.
Ohio, as with most states, has an office in charge of maintaining birth records, marriage records, and death records. The Ohio Department of Health through The Bureau of Vital Statistics operates a statewide system for the registration of births, deaths, and other vital events within the state.
A request for information can be done via the Ohio Bureau of Vital Statistics site, where interested parties can provide relevant information about a specific record. This information may include:
Birth records from 1908 and death records from 1964 to present day are maintained at the Bureau of Vital Statistics, which also manages fetal death, heirloom birth, and stillbirth certificates as well. You can order certified copies of records online. You’ll make the request, pay a fee, and receive the copy in the mail.
Notably, marriage and divorce records are not maintained at the Bureau of Vital Statistics. For certified copies of marriage licenses and divorce certificates, obtain them from the county where the event was recorded. Visit this listing of county clerks to determine where to request files.
To further understand the public records policy in Ohio, here’s a list of commonly asked questions:
Yes, even non-residents are able to submit a request for records.
All of the public offices within the state of Ohio fall under public records law.
In Ohio, there is no set deadline for a response, but agencies typically respond very promptly.
There is no administrative appeal for the state of Ohio, but requesters do have the option of filing an appeal in the Ohio Courts of Claim for $25. Generally, fees associated with the actual costs materials, aside from labor, may be charged.
The state of Ohio can charge for the cost of materials, but don’t charge for labor.
Officially the Virgin Islands of the United States, the USVI are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are classified as an organized, unincorporated U.S. territory. The islands are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles of the Virgin Islands archipelago, and the USVI consists of the main islands of Saint Thomas, Saint Croix, and Saint John. Tourism and rum manufacturing are the primary economic activities here, and the territory has a population of approximately 106,00 residents. While U.S. citizens, those who reside here cannot vote in U.S. elections as the USVI is not a state. The USVI does make provisions for the sharing of its records with the public.
Laws covering the sharing of public records in the U.S. Virgin Islands are covered under Title 3 of the Virgin Island Code (V.I.C.) § 881. The law states that “every citizen of the territory” has a right to examine and copy all public records. The purpose of the request does not need to be disclosed, and there are no limitations placed on the use of the records once obtained.
Public records covered under the Code include those of all public agencies in the territory, including the executive and legislative branches. The courts are not covered by this Code. Records that are not included, or are exempt, are:
Background checks are administered by the USVI Police Department Records Bureau. A police record check can be requested by filling out the proper form. This is a name-based search and does not require the signed consent of the person being searched.
The USVI Police Department runs corrections in the territory, and there are two Detention Facilities – one St. Thomas that is classified as medium security and one on St. Croix. There is not a way to do an online search for offenders in the system, but you can call (340) 778-2211 for information.
There are two separate court websites in the USVI, one for the District Court and another for the Superior Court. Most individuals will be interested in superior court cases as these are the civil, criminal, family, probate, small claims, and traffic cases. There are not really any online court records searches available, but you can turn in a Request for Records Search with the Acting Clerk of the Court for any desired court records.
Obtaining vital records in the U.S. Virgin Islands is going to depend on the type of record that you need and the particular island where the event took place. In all instances, you must prove eligibility to obtain the record, such as being a party listed on the certificate, a parent or legal guardian, or other legal representative.
St. Thomas and St. John
Located in the northeastern Caribbean, Puerto Rico is a United States territory that consists of the main island and several smaller islands. Officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, this tropical locale is populated by 3.6 million people and is a popular tourist destination. First claimed by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish in 1493, the island was ceded to the United States in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. Puerto Rico is classified as an unincorporated U.S. territory under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950. The territory has a local constitution and its residents are U.S. citizens, but cannot vote in major U.S. elections. Puerto Rico does make provisions for sharing its records with the public.
The main public records act in Puerto Rico is called the Public Documents Administration Act, first passed in 1955 and amended in 2000, which is covered in Laws of Puerto Rico Annotated Title 3 Chapter 41 § 1001. There are other provisions under Title 3 that also deal with the preservation and supply of public records. There is also a short statement in Title 32 of the code that states that “every citizen” has a right to take a copy of public records.
Records subject to the Act are any public documents produced in the Commonwealth, and this applies to the executive, legislative and judicial branches. There is no information on exemptions or exclusions with regards to public documents in this territory.
Background checks in Puerto Rico are administered by the Puerto Rico Police Department. The criminal records checks are name-based checks, and Puerto Rico is now doing these online. You do need to have an ID issued by the territory, such as a driver’s license, in order to use the system. In the alternative, you can order a background check in person at the Puerto Rico Police Department, Ave F.D. Roosevelt 601, Cuartel General, San Juan, PR 00936-8166.
To learn about the correctional facilities in Puerto Rico, find information about inmates in the system, or get services for victims, visit the Puerto Rico Department of Corrections website. There is no online search page to locate a specific offender in the system. For assistance, you can call the Office of Control and Management of the correctional population at (787) 273-6464.
Any information on courts in the territory of Puerto Rico can be found on its administrator of the courts website. The only online search that can be done is to the court calendar. Specific case files and records requests will need to be made with the clerk of the court in the courthouse where the case was heard.
Vital records, such as birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates, in Puerto Rico are administered by the Department of Health, Demographic Registry. Birth, death, and marriage certificates are available from June 22, 1931 to present. Divorce certificates are available from 1941 to present. You must submit a complete application and show that you are an “interested party” in order to receive a certificate. This means that you are either listed on the certificate or are an immediate family member, legal guardian, or legal representative. There are several ways to obtain these documents:
You may also be able to get some divorce records in Puerto Rico from the local courthouse where the original divorce was granted.
Since it began recording public records in 1775, the state of Pennsylvania has an astounding 100 million public records that the general public has access to. Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law gives all citizens access to public records, but tracking them down can be tough. As in most states, public records are scattered across multiple state agencies and departments.
To make the process easier, we have compiled a state-specific guide to assist you in understanding the laws and provide instructions on how to access criminal, inmate, court, and vital records across the 67 counties in Pennsylvania.
According to the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act, anyone is able to access the public records in the state, and this act covers all three branches of government with only certain court records exempted. Additional exemptions are listed for personal records, records that could compromise public safety, and documents that contain trade secrets.
As far as response times from agencies are concerned, the state government must respond within five business days.
If a request is denied, there is an appeals process. A requester can contact the state’s Office of Open Records, which can issue opinions to other agencies. In order to force records into disclosure, the requester must file a suit in court.
In Pennsylvania, the fees associated with records requests are limited, with agencies only being able to charge for the actual costs of duplicating a record. This is more conservative than some states, which charge for staff time and resources.
Public records are available online or through a formal records request. If a request is required, it can be delivered by mail, email, or by phone to the record-holding department.
Every department is different, so expect some variation to the rules if you’re accessing records from multiple places.
In general, a public records request should include:
Due to COVID-19, some public offices may have limited hours of operation. As a result, online requests are best, but if you want to go in person you should call ahead.
In the state of Pennsylvania, criminal records are most commonly accessed by employers who are looking to execute a background check on potential employees. To assist employees in finding a person’s criminal records, we’ve provided some information and resources below.
A criminal record provides a detailed record of a person’s interactions with law enforcement. These records are pulled from various sources and include arrest records, convictions, and incarcerations within the state’s four prisons.
More specifically, a criminal record or a background check will provide the following information:
Criminal records in Pennsylvania are official documents that contain the details of the criminal activity of a single person and are kept at every level of every jurisdiction – from municipal, county, and state levels. They are gathered from all types of criminal courts from across the county and state.
The Pennsylvania State Police maintain the records and provide an online database to conduct a search. Through the Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History (PATCH), requesters can apply for criminal background checks on an individual.
It is also possible to access dispositions on criminal cases by reviewing court docket sheets that are located at the Pennsylvania Judiciary web portal.
Inmate records in Pennsylvania consist of offenders that are held across the prisons, correctional inmate facilities, parish jails, and other penal institutions throughout the state. They may also include information on sentencing, the class of the offense, the parish where a case was tried, and the facility location of the inmate.
The information listed on an inmate record varies, but in Pennsylvania the records usually contain a combination of personal information and specific details about a person’s incarceration situation. Public access to inmate records can provide the following information when accessed:
Pennsylvania criminal records are organized through online record depositories which can be accessed through the courts, law enforcement agency buildings, or government databases.
The Inmate/Parolee Locator serves as the database which contains information on every inmate and parolee within the state that is currently under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections (DOC). The site is updated on a daily basis to ensure accuracy.
Court records in Pennsylvania include a multitude of information produced through court proceedings. For people that are searching for certain court records, there are resources listed below. It’s important to note that court records can be some of the most difficult records to procure since they are usually held across several courts in the state of Pennsylvania.
In the majority of cases, court records are quite large and come with several varying documents. Most people find these documents the most helpful:
Requesting court records is usually the most difficult request. It’s not uncommon for a state to require requesters to visit a specific courthouse, like a county court, to request records in person. However, Pennsylvania has many of its records online.
A public records search for court documents in this state can return information on civil cases, traffic cases, criminal cases, landlord-tenant cases, and non-traffic cases. You can search and view individual court case information free of charge by visiting the portal, where you will be able to find the following records:
Requesters that wish to order paper case records that are maintained by a magisterial district court office need to speak with someone at the courthouse. For complex requests, the magisterial district court may ask you to fill out a request form.
Similarly to most states, Pennsylvania has an office that keeps track of its vital records. The vital records include birth records, marriage records, and death records.
A request for information can be done via Pennsylvania’s State Registrar & Vital Records site, where interested parties can provide relevant information about a specific record. This information may include:
As the official custodian of vital records for the state of Pennsylvania, the Bureau of Health Statistics and Registries, which is overseen by the department of health, has been in charge of files since 1906. Through their online portal, it is possible to obtain birth certificates, death certificates, certified copies of marriage licenses, and fetal death certificates.
Marriage and divorce certificates for the state are available from any county courthouse in the state where the document was issued.
To further assist citizens in their search for public records within the state of Pennsylvania, here’s a list of commonly asked questions:
Yes. The freedom of information act gives every citizen the right to access records.
No, there is no designated records custodian for the state.
Currently, there are 30 exemptions in Pennsylvania, with 39 statutory exclusions, making it one of the more specific than most states in regards to public records laws. Some of the exempted files include donor information, private information of employees, trade secrets, work files of public servants, records that would potentially compromise computer network security, and more.
The state of Pennsylvania has five days to respond to any requests for documents.
Yes, but only after you have gotten an opinion from the Office of Open Records.
The fees for requesting public records in Pennsylvania are somewhat limited, with agencies only charging for the price of duplicating records. There may be no charges for the reviewal of documents or searching for them. Extensive searches may incur more costs if outside professionals are involved. As for appeals, they are possible, but only after you receive an opinion from the Office of Open Records.
To access public records in Michigan, you’ll need some direction. Michigan complies with the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that was enacted in 1977. Under this statute, the state allows for the general public to access more than 89 million public records.
In order to better understand how to request files, read along to understand the public records which comprise all of the criminal records, inmate records, and vital records.
The state of Michigan has a broad approach when it comes to the application of their records, with many offices in the legislature covered, while some individual members are exempt.
Aside from state-funded universities, any private entity operating with public funding is subject to the law. What qualifies as a “record” in Michigan is also slightly broader than other states, but in general, this includes just about anything written as well as recordings, computer programs are also included.
You don’t have to be a citizen of Michigan to access public records, but currently incarcerated individuals do not have access, no matter which state they are incarcerated in.
The Michigan law does not expressly say how long a public agency has to respond to a records request other than to say the agency should respond “promptly” and should be within a week.
There are no administrative appeals allowed whatsoever, which means if a request is denied you’ll have to take your fight to court.
To learn more about Michigan’s rules and how to access records, visit Michigan.gov.
Some public records can be found through online services while others must be requested from a specific agency using a formal request. If a request is required, it can be sent via email, mail, or by phone to the record-holding department.
Every department is different, so expect some variation to the rules if you’re accessing records from multiple places.
In general, a public records request should include:
Due to the Coronavirus, some public offices may have limited hours of operation. As a result, online requests are the suggested route to go, but if you want to go in person it is advised that you call ahead.
Criminal records in Michigan are very easy to access due to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). All criminal activities committed by individuals within the state are electronically kept and also printed and filed.
A criminal record provides a detailed record of a person’s interactions with law enforcement. These records are pulled from various sources and include arrest records, convictions, and incarcerations within the state’s four prisons.
More specifically, a criminal record or a background check will provide the following information:
Criminal records are maintained by the Michigan State police and can be found by searching through the Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT) by either names or fingerprints.
There are other avenues that can be used to retrieve Michigan criminal records, too. They include the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), private companies and the local police departments and courts.
Most criminal records can be requested online via mail or email. In addition to accessing criminal records online, Michigan law also allows the general public to inspect and copy case records.
All misdemeanor and felonies that have occurred within all 83 Michigan counties are reported by either the law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, or the courts and are held in correctional facilities across the state.
The information listed on an inmate record varies, but in Michigan the records usually contain a combination of personal information and specific details about a person’s incarceration situation. Inmate information also includes records of their offenses, incarceration, and release dates. Some of these records are publicly available and accessible online while others are restricted and released only to authorized parties.
Public access to inmate records can provide the following information when accessed:
The Michigan Department of Corrections is in charge of all operations within state prisons in Michigan. To access records, you can search for the inmate’s name and city through the Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS) by the Michigan Department of Corrections.
By law, the MDOC is required to keep inmate records on OTIS for up to three years after release. Searches can be done on the OTIS database by offender name, MDOC number, sex, age, race, and status. However, not all records are public. Some are only available to authorized parties.
Court records can provide a wealth of information from court proceedings. For those looking to access court records, there are resources listed below. It’s important to remember that court records can be some of the most difficult records to access since they’re often held in different courts.
In most cases, court records are quite large and come with many different documents. Most people find the following documents the most helpful:
Fortunately, Michigan has an online database where the public can conduct a case search and see all records associated with it. The search tool allows you to search using a docket number and selecting whether the case was heard by the supreme court or a court of appeals. You can also search by the party name or the attorney’s name.
If you need to access court cases that are held within district court or circuit court, you need to reach out to the county clerk and request the records.
It is important to note that not all cases are open and may not be available.
The state of Michigan Vital Records Office keeps birth records, marriage records, divorce records, and death records since as early as 1867.
To obtain a vital record in Michigan, a person must provide certain information to aid in the search. The information needed includes:
In order to get access to vital records, you can either order online using a debit card or credit card or print an application to order via mail.
Due to COVID-19, restrictions are in place and some offices are closed to the general public. Currently, everything is done online. A request for a record is usually handled within 1-3 business days.There are certain fees (known as record fees and processing fees) that you will have to pay as well.
Accessing public records can be a real challenge, so to further assist a requesters need for information this list of FAQs should help:
Yes, you can request for records if you are a non-resident. Whether you live in Detroit or Denver, you can access public documents. There are only a handful of states that require requesters to live in the state to access public records.
No, there is no records custodian in Michigan.
Yes. The law does have exemptions, which include the governor’s office and records pertaining to individual members of the legislature.
There are no deadlines for how long one has to respond however, agencies are urged to respond as soon as possible. Most agencies respond to a request within a week.
There is no administrative appeals process. In some states, if a request is denied a requester can file a complaint with the attorney general, but that’s not possible in Michigan. If you’re denied access to public records, your only recourse is to fight it in court.
For requests made by the media or in interest of the public, there are no fees charged. The public may be charged a small fee to copy records or case information.
Just about every country and culture has a method of record-keeping. For various reasons, like collecting taxes or tracking crime rates, records have proven a valuable resource for federal, state, and local governments to keep.
As citizens, you can access many of these records. The Freedom of Information Act, which passed back in the 60s has made it easier for people to access records, although it’s still a bit of a challenge. Records are kept by different departments, some are online and some are still in hard copy, and some public officials aren’t quick to deliver public files.
In Florida, as with other states, different records are held by many different departments. Accessing public records in the state of Florida will depend on the kind of information you’re looking for.
To help, here’s some direction on locating and reviewing official records in The Sunshine State.
The Florida Constitution contains open government laws, which include the Public Records Law. This law states that any records made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business are available for inspection unless specifically exempted by the Florida Legislature.
The law, called the Sunshine Law, can be found in Chapter 286 of the Florida statutes.
This law includes access to traditional written documents such as papers, maps, books, tapes, photographs, film, sound recordings, and records stored in computers, according to Florida law.
The attorney general prints a manual that explains the state’s open government laws and includes any updates made.
For public records access in Florida, a person must submit a public records request. The request is sent via mail, email, mail, or by phone to the Public Records Coordinator, which in this case is in Tallahassee. In some states, this person is called a Custodian of Public Records, but the title varies by state.
The request should include:
In some cases, it’s best to make requests by email, especially since offices may have different hours to due COVID-19.
There is a copy fee of $0.20 per double-sided copy, but fees are waived if the cost is under $7.
Florida criminal records provide a list of criminal activity for a specific person. The records contain any misdemeanor and felony offenses and include arrest data, indictment history, and conviction information.
Criminal records contain pertinent information about a person’s criminal history. The following information can be found on Florida criminal records:
To look at criminal records, visit the Florida Criminal History Record Check website, which is maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Public access to this information costs $25 per record check. The most helpful tool is the Instant Search, where files are retrieved after entering a person’s name.
Inmate records provide a look at a person’s criminal history and incarceration information. These records do provide some of the same information as a criminal record, but also provide specifics about incarceration time.
Some records are public and some must be requested by a person or a court.
The information listed on an inmate record varies, but in Florida the records usually contain:
The Florida Department of State keeps all criminal justice records, which includes inmate records and arrest records. The state has put together a list of jails and gives you the ability to search inmate records, and in some counties, arrest records can be searched for and viewed too.
Florida court records give people a chance to review court documents and proceedings. They’re created for both criminal and civil trials in local, county, state, and federal courts.
While court records are available to the public through the Sunshine Act, the records can be sealed or expunged, which means you wouldn’t be able to access the record. Usually, this happens if the information puts someone at risk, like victims of a crime or juveniles.
These records aren’t all kept by one particular court or in one repository. Instead, people can gain access to records by checking in with the county, circuit, Court of Appeals, or Supreme Court, depending on where the case was argued.
The information on a court record can vary, but in Florida the most useful documents found inside a public court record include:
For people interested in inspecting court records in Florida, the state suggests visiting the courthouse where the case is taking place and requesting the documents in person from the clerk of court, county clerk, or the clerk’s office.
Some county records can be found online. In some cases, counties maintain an online records portal. Miami-Dade County, for example, has its own site with the ability to search government records using names and keywords. It’s a good idea to search for a similar site in the county you’re looking for.
Vital records government issued records that document life events like birth, marriage, or divorce. Not all vital records are public. Usually, records are only released to people listed on the record, a family member of those listed on the document, or a government official.
To obtain a Florida vital record, a person must provide certain information to aid in the search. The information needed includes:
To access records that record life events like birth, marriage, and death, you need to review vital records. In Florida, the State Department of Health maintains these records. This department can provide access to the following information:
The state uses a system known as VitalChek to provide this information. Requests can be made right on the website. There is a fee for each request. Fees vary by the record.
Florida state has indexed dozens of pieces of public information on its Florida Information Locator. People can access everything from lists of abandoned properties to zip code directories.
To make sure you’re able to access the records you want, here are answers to frequently asked questions:
Yes. Both residents and non-residents can request public documents in the state of Florida.
In Florida, any person who has custody of a public record must share it. The title, records custodian, isn’t used, but access should still be granted.
The Florida Constitution doesn’t list any exemptions and assumes that all records are public.
Some states spell out a window of time that the state must respond to a request for information. However, Florida is not one of those states. The state constitution says all requests must be handled “promptly” and every effort should be made to see if a record exists and if so, it should be delivered to the person requesting it in a timely manner.
Florida doesn’t have much of any enforcement in place when it comes to appeals or denials for information.
If, for example, you’re denied access to public records, there is no appeal process. Several states spell out an appeal process, but Florida doesn’t.
The state offers a mediation program through the attorney general’s office to resolve potential disputes.
In Florida, the cost to duplicate documents is $0.15 per one-sided page and $0.20 for double-sided pages, and $1 per certified copy. Florida law also provides clearance for additional fees if a request comes in that ties up extensive resources.