Bullying As A Crime

STUDENT ON STUDENT BULLYING:  States laws differ in their approach to bullying.  According to a  July 2013 review of state cyber bullying laws by The Cyberbullying Research Center (see www.cyberbullying.us) 49 states have Bullying Laws.  Only 12 states make bullying a crime and only 18 states include “cyberbullying” in the law.   To make it more confusing, reporting requirements also differ.  Some states require individual schools to report “bullying” to local boards of education.  Other states require reporting to both local boards of education and the state departments of education.  Statutes differ on when schools should involved local law enforcement agencies.  Another area of concern is “off-campus” bullying.  New Jersey, for example, has a recently amended law that gives schools power to punish bullying conduct that takes place off-campus.  New York has a good approach. It set up a system to help police and school officials to investigate claims of cyber bullying and to either prosecute, suspend or expel the student offender.  When school districts set policy on suspending, expelling or prosecuting students for bullying they must read the state law carefully.  Maryland’s proposed student bullying legislation is typical.  It makes bullying by someone under 18 a misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine or 1 year in prison.    Schools have discretion as they can suspend. expel or prosecute a student for bullying violations.  When school officials elect to prosecute a bullying case the matter goes to Juvenile Court in all states.

CYBERBULLYING PROTECTION EXTENDED TO TEACHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA.    In 2012 the North Carolina legislature made it a misdemeanor for students to post something online “with the intent to intimidate or torment a school employee.”  This may be the first such law in the country.  Legislators said the law was necessary to keep up with the rise of students using social media.  Teacher groups say a criminal penalty is necessary because students will not stop harassing teachers if the only consequence is suspension or expulsion from school. Critics insist the definition of cyber bullying is not clear and fear punishment could stifle free speech.  District Attorneys say cyber bullying cases are difficult to prosecute.  One DA said just because something was posted from a person’s computer or cell phone account does not mean the owner of the account is the individual who posted it.


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