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Understanding "Cyber" Bullying: California Law & Proactive Steps for School Districts

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Our handout from the Association of California School Administrators Safe Schools Conference, August 1, 2013.

Our handout from the Association of California School Administrators Safe Schools Conference, August 1, 2013.


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  • 1. © 2013. Gagnier Margossian LLP. All rights reserved. Understanding “Cyber” Bullying: California Law & Proactive Steps for School Districts Bullying has long been present in schools, but the tactics used today, primarily through the use of technology and social networks, exacerbate the impact of this behavior. “Cyber” bullying, as it is referred to and reported on by the media, refers to the bullying online of juveniles and students. It is important to understand that while this behavior may or may not have its genesis in the classroom, its results are permanent and pervasive: negative comments, teasing and other hurtful communication is archived permanently online and can be easily shared and replicated at the click of a button. What  is  “Cyber”  Bullying? “Cyber” bullying typically refers to online bullying involving juveniles or students. “Cyber” bullying can include: ➡ Knowingly or recklessly posting or sharing false or defamatory information about a person; ➡ Taunting a person using online or otherwise digital means; ➡ Posting or sharing information about another person that is private; ➡ Breaking into another person’s electronic account and/or assuming a person’s identity; or ➡ Posting or sharing photos of other people without their permission. “Cyber”  Bullying  Facts  &  Figures ➡ 1  in  5 middle school students reportedly feels the effects of “cyber” bullying. ➡ Approximately 75% of teens ages   12  to  17  experience “cyber” bullying in the U.S. ➡ “Cyber” bullying begins  as  early   as  4th  grade, when self- perception begins to shape a child’s view of their self worth. ➡ Online abuse - cyber bullying, cyber stalking and cyber harassment - disproporBonately   affects  children,  minoriBes  and   women. Ten  Ways  “Cyber”  Bullying  Can  Be  More  Damaging  Than  Face-­‐to-­‐Face  Bullying 1) “Cyber” bullying can be done  in  an  instant. 2) Harassing posts can be accessed  repeatedly  by  a  limitless  audience. 3) Harassing posts can be archived,  cached  and  spread to different forums. 4) Bullies are able to “bully” 24/7 from anywhere  at  anyBme. 5) Bullies become less  inhibited since they are physically removed from the victim of the bullying. 6) The harassing posts and behavior are archived on the Internet permanently, affecBng  the  online  reputaBon of all parties involved. 7) A victim’s idenBty  can  be  manipulated  online, with bullies pretending  to  be  the   vicBm in different forums. 8) Victims have a harder  Bme  “fighBng”  back: posts and comments can  mulBply  in   seconds. 9) Bullies can post harassing content anonymously, making it harder for parents, teachers and administrators to step in and take action. 10) Schools shy  away  from  interfering  with  online  bullying  since it takes place on the Internet and often times outside of school hours.
  • 2. T: 415.766.4591 F: 909.972.1639 E: consult@gamallp.com gamallp.com @gamallp Los Angeles Internet Intellectual Property Privacy Social Media Technology The Good Stuff Sacramento San Francisco Bullying  AcBon  Plan 1) Develop a Bullying Policy and make sure it is distributed amongst parents and students. 2) Provide accessible resources about bullying and support for students who may be victims. 3) Make “cyber” bullying a focus - ensure that parents understand the technology and how it is being used. 4) Deal with reports, rumors and other evidence of bullying immediately. 5) Provide immediate support to victims rather than just focusing on remedial action for those who were the perpetrators of the bullying behavior. Seth’s  Law The California Legislature has taken steps to protect a certain class of students. Assembly Bill 9 (AB 9), known as “Seth’s Law,” was enacted to focus on the most common targets of bullying: lesbian, gay,, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students. AB 9 had predecessors, but differs since it includes specific requirements that must be met by school districts.These requirements include: ➡ Education Code Section 234 now protects student victims from not only discrimination and harassment, but also “intimidation and bullying based on actual or perceived characteristics” including a student’s disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. ➡ Any school personnel who witness acts of discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying “must take immediate steps to intervene when safe to do so.” ➡ Schools must “set up a timeline to investigate and resolve” complaints, as well as implement an appeals process. ➡ AB 9 does not prohibit teachers and school officials from taking some sort of action to intervene for activity that may take place off-campus. ➡ School districts must post and annually update support resources for pupils who have been subject to school-based discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying on their website. It’s  Not  Just  AB  9  -­‐  Other  Applicable  Law  in  California ➡ Assembly Bill 746 (2011) - Language includes student behaviors on social networking sites. ➡ Assembly Bill 1732 adds punishments for creators of offensive burn pages, Internet impersonations and false profiles. ➡ Assembly Bill 86, codified in Education Code Section 32261(g), gives school officials grounds to suspend a pupil or recommend a pupil for expulsion for bullying, including, but not limited to, bullying by electronic act. ➡ Education Code Section 48900(a) - addressing activity of threatening to cause physical injury. ➡ Education Code Section 48900(i) - addressing activity of committing an obscene act or engaged in habitual profanity or vulgarity. Resource Website TheTrevor Project thetrevorproject.org StopBullying.gov stopbullying.gov Wired Safety wiredsafety.org BornThis Way Foundation bornthiswayfoundation.org Common Sense Media commonsensemedia.org AThin Line athinline.org That’s Not Cool that’snotcool.org Find some helpful resources below to educate your school, parents and students alike. #nerdlawyers 