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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cyber Bullying Case Law is Limited, But Consider Civil and Criminal Laws

Cyber Bullying Case Law is Limited, But Consider Civil and Criminal Laws

Educators and administrators often ask us about case law regarding cyber bullying to help guide them in policy and procedure. As far as I know, and I research it daily, case law is limited. One law suit, now in progress, is slowly developing (read article: Evidence of Megan Meier's death will be permitted in Lori Drew's cyber-bullying trial)

Regardless of case law, school personnel need to respond if a student harasses or bullies another student(s) using the school computer/internet system. A school also needs to be involved even if the cyber bullying was initiated off campus, but interrupts learning on campus. This is referred to as an off-campus/on-campus nexus.

A real challenge for administrators and teachers is when one student bullies another student online, but there is no connection to school computer use or an on-campus/off-campus nexus. They struggle when confronted by a parent of a student who is being bullied by another student at the school. Simply put, a distressed parent does not want to hear “The bully didn’t use a school computer, there is no nexus and therefore there is nothing we can do or required to do.”

In such situations, we do have some recommendations. First, we believe all schools should be preemptive and should teach all students, staff and parents about the different types of bullying, how to address it as a target, bystander, or parent, and consequences of bullying. This won’t stop all bullying from occurring, but can limit its affects.

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