Schools, state laws & cyberbullying

By Anne Collier

A Texas schools superintendent said that any online behavior that detracts from learning in school is going to get school action, and his schools have detailed but one-page Internet-use contracts students have to sign. State legislators are taking action too. Rhode Island is considering one of the toughest anti-cyberbullying laws, the Chicago Tribune reports. "Under the proposed legislation, students and their parents could be prosecuted if the student is caught sending Internet or text messages that prove disruptive to school," whether or not they send those messages from school. As for other states, "South Carolina recently passed a law that mandates school districts to define bullying, including cyberbullying. In Oregon, lawmakers have backed a bill that would require all schools to adopt policies that ban cyberbullying and allow for expulsion of those who are caught doing it." School policy and state laws may be kicking in because courts have "proved reluctant to get involved in what many may see as an age-old problem," and courts and prosecutors "have largely agreed, concluding that the 1st Amendment covers even the most offensive online speech." It might be a good idea for all adults – parents, educators, policymakers – to start thinking of online kids more as participants than as potential victims and start working with them on online citizenship as much as online safety – involve youth too in the public discussion about online behavior and the First Amendment. For more information, the Washington Times has a thorough look at cyberbullying, including how it differs from the traditional kind. And here's National Public Radio on how Virginia is out in front as "the first state to require public schools to teach Internet safety."

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