New Law Against Students Cyber Bullying Of Teachers Is A Misdemeanor

In North Carolina a law took effect on December 1, 2013 that makes it a misdemeanor for students to commit various online offenses against school employees.   The law covers things like creating false profiles, signing the school official up for internet porn or posting private information and personal images.  One example so far is where a student photographed a teacher in class and posted it on Face Book with some “not-so-nice” comments.  The school staff talked to the student’s parents and got the post taken down.  A school official said he had also received report of students creating “parody” type Twitter accounts using names similar to teachers or administrators.  This would not fall under the law he said, so the students could only be suspended or expelled under the school code of conduct.   School officials in all states should check with local prosecutors to see if these negative posts violate state laws on harassment or threats.

Before passage of this law there were examples in North Carolina of students being either suspended or expelled for making negative posts about teachers.  Note;  names of students mentioned in these incidents are not their real names.  At one school a female honor roll student named Joan said she regretted making a Facebook post calling her teacher a pedophile, which is a class 1 violation, meaning the most serious kind.  She was suspended for ten days. Joan drafted an apology to the teacher and said she had no intention of ruining his reputation.   At this  same school  15 students  made two dozen posts about teachers on Facebook.  Because the content of the posts were less serious, the penalties were just one day suspensions.   At the same school another honor roll student named Julian  was also suspended for calling the same teacher a rapist.   A third student, Robert, was expelled for posting that the same teacher was bipolar.  Robert’s mother said she thought the punishment did not fit the crime.

These cases are important because  the legal issues of student free speech and school discipline come together here.  At least two of the student’s families plan to hire attorneys and challenge the disciplinary action.     Students do have free speech rights at school.  But the school district can limit the student’s speech because it has duty to protect both school officials and students from defamatory, negative and insulting online posts.  These free speech issues often go clear up to the US Supreme Court.

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