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Should there be any regulation of cyber bullying?

September 10, 2019

Cyberbullying is a major problem causing significant harm. There is no dispute that students today use e-mail, messaging, texting, and social networking sites on almost an hourly basis to stay in touch with one another. In one survey of thirteen- to seventeen-year-olds, thirty-five percent reported being the targets of Internet harassment including “rude or nasty comments, rumors, and threatening or aggressive messages. As one teenage victim stated: “It makes me hurt both physically and mentally.  It scares me and takes away all my confidence to make me feel sick and worthless.

Bullying versus Cyber bullying

It is apparent that neither the courts nor the schools are clear on how legally to deal with the  problem of cyber bullying.  What makes the legal framework for cyber bullying so difficult?  The answer, as set forth in this  is that cyber bullying differs from off-line bullying such that current laws and school policies are often inadequate to deal with this new forum for bullying

Cyber bullying presents a danger to schoolchildren.  Because cyber bullying involves the Internet and the use of cell phones, it is more pervasive, relentless, and cruel than off-line bullying.  There is simply no escape for victims of cyber bullying.  Indeed, cyber bullying follows a victim from their school to their home, and possibly to their adult life.  Legislatures and public schools are taking measures to combat cyber bullying.  However, with this new medium for bullying comes many new and challenging legal issues.
A cyber bullying policy  carefully adopted
These new issues can be resolved.  A cyber bullying policy that carefully adopts language to deal with a public school’s jurisdiction over off-campus speech that either materially disrupts school activities or impinges on another student’s rights should address First Amendment concerns.  A cyber bullying policy that sets forth clear definitions of terms and gives proper notice to students and parents should ensure that due process is met.  And finally, a cyber bullying policy that establishes a reasonable process by which school officials can conduct searches of students’ personal electronic devices when investigating cyber bullying claims should address Fourth Amendment issues.  The model cyber bullying policy set forth in Appendix B attempts to do just that—to provide a step in the right direction so that public schools can ensure a safe environment without trampling students’ constitutional and legal rights.

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