1. Cyberbullying Laws: What’s Being Done to Stop Online Abuse?

    On March 16, 2012, Dharun Ravi was convicted of hate crime and invasion of privacy for spying on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after Ravi and another student secretly watched via webcam Clementi in an embrace with another man. Ravi’s crime, for which he faces deportation and up to 10 years in prison, re-ignited the national debate about cyberbullying, its causes and effects, and what should be done to prevent it from happening.

    Over 500,000 people search on “Cyberbullying” monthly on Google, but what is it, exactly? Are there existing laws that define it - and help to stop it? Culled from articles and updates by lawyers on JD Supra, here’s the beginning of an answer to these important questions:

    Cyber-Bullying Does Not Happen In a Vacuum (Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP)

    “It takes a lot of bullying and all round cruelty to push someone to kill themselves. And, usually, there are opportunities, several, if not more, to intervene, and protect the victim of the attacks. Bullying does not happen in a vacuum. There are witnesses. Bullies get some self-satisfaction from tormenting another person. We need to interrupt that cycle. Remove whatever gratification they are getting from being cruel to another person.” Read the full update»

    The Bully on the Virtual Playground (Dinsmore & Shohl LLP)

    “The National Crime Prevention Council defines cyberbullying as the use of ‘the Internet, cell phones or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.’ Wired Kids, Inc. an organization dedicated to Internet safety, security and privacy, defines cyberbullying as: ‘a situation when a child, tween or teen is repeatedly “tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted” by another child or teenager using text messaging, email, instant messaging or any other type of digital technology.’” Read the full update»

    Cyberbullying: A Continuing Concern For Schools (Fisher & Phillips LLP)

    “Those who have been targets of the phenomenon of cyberbullying often feel that there is nothing that can be done to stop the bullying or harassment short of retaining a lawyer and threatening a lawsuit… They will look to schools for support. But some states have enacted laws against cyberbullying and have subjected it to possible criminal sanctions. What is a school to do? Many schools have taken steps to reduce the exposure of their students and teachers to cyberbullying and to protect themselves from potential lawsuits arising out of discipline imposed for off-campus behavior.” Read the full update»

    School Officials May Be Liable For Suicide of Student Who Was Bullied (Sands Anderson PC)

    “… the recent suicide of Rutger’s student Tyler Clementi seemed to have been triggered by his roommate posting messages and video links to a Twitter feed revealing the teenager was gay. That kind of bullying is far beyond the ability of school administrators to regulate or control… Clementi’s death highlights how hard it is for parents and school officials to protect kids from cyber-bullying, which can be just as psychologically damaging as physical threats.” Read the full update»

    State and Local Laws

    Socially Aware: The Social Media Law Update - Vol. 1, Issue 4 (Morrison & Foerster LLP)

    “The new California law targets cyber-bullying and harassment in order to deter behavior such as that of the woman who was charged last year with posting a 17-year-old girl’s photo, e-mail and mobile number on Craigslist’s ‘Casual Encounters’ adult forum following an online argument, and the so-called ‘MySpace Mom’, whose alleged online bullying using the fake persona of a teenage boy allegedly led to a teenage girl’s suicide.” Read the full update»

    Prohibiting Online Impersonations - California and Canada (Heenan Blaikie LLP)

    “California … makes it a criminal offence to knowingly and without consent credibly impersonate another person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person… The bill, intended to address cyber-bullying and cyber-harassment as well as electronic impersonation, has raised some concerns from civil liberties groups who worry that the law does not adequately allow for parody and political activism.” Read the full update»

    Cyberbullying: Balancing the Rights of Student Victims and Bullies (McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC)

    “Pennsylvania law requires all elementary and secondary schools to have anti-bullying policies and defines ‘bullying’ to include electronic acts. In addition, Pennsylvania’s statute on bullying policies expressly permits schools to enact policies that prohibit bullying which occurs outside of the school setting as long as the out-of-school acts (1) are directed at another student or students, (2) are severe, persistent, and pervasive, and (3) have the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s education, creating a threatening environment, or substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.” Read the full update»

    Upcoming Changes to Your County’s Bullying, Harassment and Intimidation Policy (Dinsmore & Shohl LLP)

    “[West Virginia] House Bill 3225 was approved by both the House and the Senate, and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. If signed by the Governor, which is expected, each county board of education is required to update their Bullying, Harassment and Intimidation Policy… House Bill 3225 expands the definition of harassment, intimidation or bullying to include cyber-bullying.” Read the full update»

    Connecticut Law and Cyber Bullying: More Is Needed (Scott Camassar)

    “Connecticut law, specifically General Statutes § 10-222d, requires local and regional boards of education to develop and implement policies to address bullying in schools… This broad definition would cover electronic aggression. Even though most electronic aggression occurs outside of school, the definition encompasses electronic bullying to the extent it ‘has a direct and negative impact on a student’s academic performance or safety in school.’” Read the full update»

    New Anti-Bullying Statute in Massachusetts (Brian McLaughlin)

    “Massachusetts passed a new anti-bullying statute in May 2010 … [which] contains several important provisions designed to protect students from bullying and harassment. The law specifically addresses cyber-bullying a new type of bullying in today’s digital world. With Facebook, cell phones and other forms of electronic communication children who were once solely bullied while at school are now subject to a relentless wave of harassment following them when they leave school at the end of the day.” Read the full update»

    School Bullying Law Updates (Paul ODonnell)

    “Cyber bullying often continues long after the school day terminates. The communication between the alleged perpetrator and victim often become two ways blurring the assessment of blame. [T]he [Massachusetts Bullying] law represents a first step in establishing parameters for resolution of the majority of bullying incidents.” Read the full update»

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    Related Reading:

    Key Witness Takes Stand In Rutgers Web-Cam Trial (Lawyers.com) 

    Guilty Verdict in Rutgers Spying Case – What would Texas do? [Audio] (Looper Reed & McGraw, P.C.)

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Notes

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