Cyberbullying
and the
Legal Responsibilities of a
School
Professional Development, 2014
Joan Rosenthal, Instructor
Warm-Up Activity
• You are a teacher, and one of your students, Jessica,
approaches you hysterically crying because some o...
What is Cyberbullying?
• According to StopBullying.gov, cyberbullying is “bullying that takes place using electronic
techn...
Facts and Statistics
• 24% of students ages 12 to 18 years old reported that they had experienced
cyberbullying during the...
Tragic
Effects
Megan Meier, 13 year old who
committed suicide as a result
of MySpace bullying Rebecca Sedwick, 12 year old...
The Legal Questions: A Brief Look at the Precedents of
Student Rights vs. School Safety and Values (Hostetler, 2014)
• Tin...
What About State Anti-Cyberbullying Laws?
• After two bullying victims murdered students and teachers in the 1999 Columbin...
A Prime Example of the Failure of
Non-Federal Anti-Cyberbullying Statutes
• People v. Marquan M. (2014): A 15-year-old hig...
What the Courts Have Ruled: Case #1
Emmett v. Kent School District (2000)
• Inspired by a creative writing class, high sch...
• An 8th grade student, J.S. created a web site called
“Teacher Sux,” mostly targeting the student’s math
teacher and scho...
What the Courts Have Ruled: Case #3
J.C. ex rel R.C. v. Beverly Hills Unified School District (2010)
• J.C. and some of he...
Your Turn!
Kara Kowalski. v. Berkeley Country Schools (2011)
• High school senior Kara Kowalski created a MySpace
page cal...
The Ruling
• The Court ruled that it was “reasonably
foreseeable” that the speech would reach the
school and thus negative...
General Conclusions
• When determining the role that a school has in intervening with a
cyberbullying incident, there are ...
How Can Teachers and Support Staff
Address Cyberbullying?
• School districts need to design specific anti-bullying
policie...
Conclusion
• Until the courts realize that “cyberbullying is about
disruptive conduct and not free speech,” it is your dut...
References and Additional Resources
4 guidelines from case law can help shape your response to cyberbullying. (2014, Janua...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

Legal PD - Cyberbullying

908 views

Published on

Published in: Education
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
908
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
1
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
6
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Legal PD - Cyberbullying

  1. 1. Cyberbullying and the Legal Responsibilities of a School Professional Development, 2014 Joan Rosenthal, Instructor
  2. 2. Warm-Up Activity • You are a teacher, and one of your students, Jessica, approaches you hysterically crying because some of her peers are posting hateful messages about her on Twitter. You try to comfort Jessica, and assure her that you will help end the bullying. • What actions could you take or should you take to solve this problem? What does the law say about what you can and cannot do? What disciplinary actions can be taken against the offenders? Please take 2 minutes to write down your ideas, and then 3 minutes to discuss your ideas with a partner.
  3. 3. What is Cyberbullying? • According to StopBullying.gov, cyberbullying is “bullying that takes place using electronic technology,” which “includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.” • Some examples of cyberbullying include threatening/harassing text messages, instant messages, or emails; altered pictures online; offensive blogs or hate groups; forwarded emails/pictures/messages without permission; rumors spread through social media sites • Cyberbullying differs from in-person bullying because it can occur 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it can occur anonymously (making it sometimes difficult to trace the source), hurtful messages can be sent quickly to a wider audience, and it is sometimes tough to completely remove offensive materials once they are posted on a web source.
  4. 4. Facts and Statistics • 24% of students ages 12 to 18 years old reported that they had experienced cyberbullying during their lifetimes (Patchin & Hinduja, 2013) • In regards to incidents that occurred on a social network site, 25% of these incidents resulted in a face-to-face argument or confrontation and 8% have resulted in physical fights (Anti-Defamation League, 2014) • Victims of cyberbullying are nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to youth who have not experienced cyberbullying (Patching & Hinduja, 2010) • 42% of LGBT youth reported being harassed or bullied online, three times more than non-LGBT youth (Ramanathan, 2013).
  5. 5. Tragic Effects Megan Meier, 13 year old who committed suicide as a result of MySpace bullying Rebecca Sedwick, 12 year old who committed suicide after a year and a half of constant cyberbullying Ryan Halligan, 13 year old who committed suicide after being bullied through instant messaging Rachel Neblett, 17 year old who committed suicide after being bullied on MySpace Kenneth Weishuhn, 14 year old gay student who committed suicide after being the subject of an anti- gay Facebook hate group Grace K. McComas, 15 year old who committed suicide after being bullied on Twitter
  6. 6. The Legal Questions: A Brief Look at the Precedents of Student Rights vs. School Safety and Values (Hostetler, 2014) • Tinker v. Des Moines, 1969: political expression (black armbands protesting Vietnam War) did not “materially or substantially disrupt” school operations, “nor did it create a reasonably foreseeable threat of doing so.” • Bethel School District v. Fraser, 1986: suspension of student who gave a lewd speech at school campaign was justified because “school had a legitimate role in promoting fundamental civic values and socially acceptable behavior.” • Morse v. Frederick, 2007: suspension of student who promoted drug use (a banner) at a school event was upheld because “schools have an important role in protecting students from drug-related influences.” But, what about speech that occurs off-campus on social media sites or via text messaging?
  7. 7. What About State Anti-Cyberbullying Laws? • After two bullying victims murdered students and teachers in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, many states began to adopt anti-bullying statutes. • As of July 2013, 49 states had bullying laws, but only 18 of these states had cyberbullying laws. (See list here: http://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/cmss_files/attachmentlibrary/Bullying_an d_Cyberbullying_Laws.pdf ) • State laws and statutes still struggle to address bullying incidents that occur off- campus, as is the case with cyber-bullying. • Cyberbullying has “fallen into a virtual ‘no-man’s-land’ of legal liability” (Erb, 2008) • Because courts have continually granted cyberbullying speech First Amendment protection and because most cases do not involve criminal charges, there is much debate about whether schools should have more autonomy to punish such speech.
  8. 8. A Prime Example of the Failure of Non-Federal Anti-Cyberbullying Statutes • People v. Marquan M. (2014): A 15-year-old high school student was criminally charged under an Albany County Law (NY) after he posted photos of classmates with captions that were sexually graphic on a web site. • The Anti-Bullying law was found unconstitutional because it was found to be too broad: it essentially “prohibited a vast swath of speech ‘far beyond the cyberbullying of children,’ in violation of the First Amendment” (Palazzolo, 2014). • The Senior Staff Attorney stated that, "Cyberbullying is a serious concern that all communities must confront, but there are better and more constructive ways to address the problem than giving children criminal records." If Marquan M.’s speech is not criminally punishable, can the school still discipline him (i.e. suspension) for his off-campus speech?
  9. 9. What the Courts Have Ruled: Case #1 Emmett v. Kent School District (2000) • Inspired by a creative writing class, high school senior Nick Emmett created a web page on his home computer in which he posted mock obituaries of at least two of his friends. Emmett also visitors to the site to vote on who would “die” next (who would be the subject of his next mock obituary). Emmett was expelled for “intimidation, harassment, [and] disruption to the educational process.” • The Court ruled that the school was NOT able to prove that anyone listed on the site was actually threatened or that this cyber speech resulted in a significant disruption at school.
  10. 10. • An 8th grade student, J.S. created a web site called “Teacher Sux,” mostly targeting the student’s math teacher and school principal. The web site included “derogatory, profane, offensive and threatening comments.” One image showed the math teacher with her head cut off and blood dripping from her neck. Students discussed the web site at school, and the teacher was so distressed from the web site that she was unable to finish the school year (she took a medical leave of absence). • The Court ruled that although the off-campus cyber speech did not “reflect a serious threat,” it did disrupt the school environment and the school thus had a right to expel the student. What the Courts Have Ruled: Case #2 J.S. v. Bethlehem Area School District (2002)
  11. 11. What the Courts Have Ruled: Case #3 J.C. ex rel R.C. v. Beverly Hills Unified School District (2010) • J.C. and some of her peers gathered at a local restaurant and made a video about a classmate, C.C. (using J.C.’s personal recording device). In the video, one of J.C.’s friends refers to C.C. as a “slut,” and other profanities and hateful language were used throughout the recording. Later that evening, J.C. posted the video on YouTube. J.C. had a past history of secretly videotaping teachers at school. The principal suspended J.C. for 2 days (the other students involved were not disciplined at all). • The Court ruled that the video did NOT create a disruption at school, and thus that J.C.’s free speech was violated.
  12. 12. Your Turn! Kara Kowalski. v. Berkeley Country Schools (2011) • High school senior Kara Kowalski created a MySpace page called “S.A.S.H.,” or “Students Against Sluts Herpes.” A classmate, however, claimed that the acronym stood for “Students Against Shay’s Herpes,” and that it referred to a student who was the target of the page (other derogatory pictures and comments about this student were included). Kowalski invited 100 students to join the page. The school suspended her for 5 days. • Was Kowalski’s right to free speech violated, or did the Court rule in favor of the school?
  13. 13. The Ruling • The Court ruled that it was “reasonably foreseeable” that the speech would reach the school and thus negatively disrupt the school environment. Kowalski’s suspension was upheld.
  14. 14. General Conclusions • When determining the role that a school has in intervening with a cyberbullying incident, there are a few questions to consider:  Does the incident cause a “material or substantial disruption” on school grounds?  Is it “reasonably foreseeable” that the off-campus speech could reach the school?  Did the cyber speech involve the use of school technology?  Were students directly threatened with violence?  Can the cyberbullying speech be considered a hate crime (i.e. targeting an individual for his/her race, religion, etc.)?  Does the cyberbullying incident involve sexual harassment or sexual graphics/images? **However, even though answering “yes” to any of these questions may allow a school to discipline a student for cyberbullying, the courts can be “unpredictable,” and there may be caveats or loopholes.
  15. 15. How Can Teachers and Support Staff Address Cyberbullying? • School districts need to design specific anti-bullying policies which include: – Specific language to determine what is considered a “substantial disruption of the school environment” so that the school can discipline the student. – Specific procedures for reporting/investigating cases of cyberbullying • Teachers and support staff should look to peer- mediate when students report incidents of cyberbullying; parent communication is essential. • Anti-cyberbullying lessons and student workshops are encouraged.
  16. 16. Conclusion • Until the courts realize that “cyberbullying is about disruptive conduct and not free speech,” it is your duty as an educator or support staff member to ensure a safe school environment for every child, which cyberbullying incidents frequently compromise. • We must promote the message that bullying and cyberbullying of any sort will not be tolerated at our school, and though we may be limited with our abilities to discipline the perpetrators of cyberbullying, we can intervene in other ways to protect the victims. • Questions?
  17. 17. References and Additional Resources 4 guidelines from case law can help shape your response to cyberbullying. (2014, January 1). Educational Research Newsletter and Webinars. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from http://www.ernweb.com/educational-research-articles/guidelines-from-case-law-cyberbullying-school-response/ Cyberbullying and the First Amendment: When Can We Discipline for Off-campus Speech?. (2012, April 1). . Retrieved July 12, 2014, from http://www.schools.utah.gov/uppac/Newsletter/April-Newsletter-2012.aspx Erb, Todd D. (2008). A Case for Strengthening School District Jurisdiction to Punish Off-Campus Incidents of Cyberbullying. Arizona State Law Journal 257.40. Retrieved July 11, 2014, from https://www.law.asu.edu/Portals/34/Todd%20Erb.pdf Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2013, January 1). Cyberbullying: Legal and Policy Issues. . Retrieved July 11, 2014, from https://www.polk-fl.net/staff/resources/documents/bully_cyberbullying_legal_issues.pdf Hostetler, D. R. Off-Campus Cyberbullying: First Amendment Problems, Parameters, and Proposal. Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal, 2014. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from http://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1339&context=elj Palazzolo, J. (2014, July 1). New York Court Strikes Down Cyberbullying Law. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from http://online.wsj.com/articles/new-york-court-strikes-down-cyberbullying-law-1404239912 Ramanathan, K. (2013, July 11). Study: LGBT Youth Face High Levels Of Cyberbullying. ThinkProgress RSS. Retrieved July 10, 2014, from http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2013/07/11/2283881/study-lgbt-cyberbulling/ Runk, S. (2013, July 30). The Dignity Act: First Amendment- Free Speech. . Retrieved July 11, 2014, from http://schoolsites.schoolworld.com/schools/SchoolSafety/files/filesystem/FACT%20SHEET%20COURT%20CASES %20- %20DA%207-2013%20-2.pdf Statistics on Bullying. (2014, July 10). . Retrieved July 14, 2014, from http://www.adl.org/assets/pdf/education-outreach/Bullying-Cyberbullying-Statistics-Overview-One-Sheet.pdf Stone, C. (2013, May 1). Cyber Bullying: Disruptive Conduct or Free Speech? American School Counselor Association (ASCA). Retrieved July 11, 2014, from http://www.schoolcounselor.org/magazine/blogs/may-june-2013/cyber-bullying-disruptive-conduct-or-free-speech What is Cyberbullying. (2014, January 1). Retrieved July 12, 2014, from http://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/

×