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Cyberbullying Laws Raise Free Speech Questions

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the keep-your-fingers-clean dept.

Education 218

Chad_DeVoss writes "States across the country are working on laws to rein in cyberbullying, claiming that electronic harassment has led even to the suicides of some children. But what about the First Amendment? Surely schools can't control what kids say to one another? It's an easy argument to make, but the reality is more complicated. From the article: 'The issue is further complicated by questions about whether cyberbullying takes place on school property or not. School officials do not generally have control over what students do outside of school, but, as the First Amendment Center reports, even this issue is complicated. Students who threaten or harass other students using school equipment or during school time can most likely be sanctioned, but even students who do such things from home face the possibility of school discipline under the 'substantial disruption of the educational environment' ruling from the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District case from 1969.'"

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School Censorship (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121734)

Surely schools can't control what kids say to one another?
I don't know about that.

When I was in high school, I was blatantly told that I didn't have the full rights of an adult until I was 18. I don't know if this is true or not. I actually still don't know if this is true. But let me relate the events that I witnessed and took part in while attending a small town high school in Minnesota.

The grade ahead of me was full of punks. I don't mean 'punks' in the derogatory term, I mean punks that accepted anybody, didn't drink much, tried to skateboard, talked about anarchy, didn't cause too much trouble but liked their music loud and fast. Now, the grade before me had access to an industrial copying machine via one of their parents. What resulted was a 'zine. A punk zine for a school that was often folded 8 1/2 x 11 pages stapled together with images, music reviews, articles & basically anything and all things punk. Including, but not limited to, taking it to the man. The zine was fifty cents to cover copying costs.

I loved these people, everyone else was a tightly knit clique of 'in' crowds where the punks didn't care if I listened to The Beatles & read Sci-Fi Fantasy & lived in the country.

The zine was considered contraband by the teachers. If they found it on your person, they gave you detention. One of the articles in an early edition criticized the entire student body of the school. Foul language was not omitted in this underground publication. First amendment right? The teachers didn't think so.

Lastly, the T-Shirts that people would try to wear were often banned. You were made to turn them inside out or go home with detention. Shirts that said "F You" or even "I hate this hick town." were grounds for detention. In the end, the punks made artwork and screened it onto shirts where it looked like a cool design but if you hooked your thumb and forefinger in it and pulled it down to cover up the inner four inches or so, it said "FUCK YOU." That way, they could choose to display the image whenever they wanted to and a teacher wasn't around. They weren't threatening people with it or harassing people, it was just their response to life and everything. The teachers found it offensive (and some of the dimmer students probably did too) so it was censored.

So to answer your question about schools censoring what the students can say to each other, I experienced that prior to being 18 quite a bit.

Sounds like just a bunch of... (1)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121818)

...rebels without a cause.

Re:Sounds like just a bunch of... (2, Interesting)

utopianfiat (774016) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122904)

And what would you do when given a bunch of doublespeak bullshit about "critical thinking" and yet asked to respond to authority as totalitarian as stalinist russia (without the shootings and disappearances, of course). It's a bit of an exaggeration but you'd be surprised at what kind of authority schools have over kids- and when they're in high school and just beginning to explore the world of being an adult, the rules become little more than an annoyance. They think "Why am I wasting my time sitting in an office for something that could be resolved with a slap on the wrist and a detention slip?"
Schools need to learn how much control over their students is acceptable. Having happy and safe students is more important than excellence. I speak from experience when a lot of my graduating class now pops meth to deal with their classes and skip days of sleep at a time.
The schools try so hard to get their grades up, they end up ripping out the kid's soul.

Re:Sounds like just a bunch of... (2, Interesting)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123130)

That's what high school is supposed to be - it's supposed to prepare the kids for the real life, and not just in terms of knowing how to do math. High school is hard at first because the kids are starting to realize that they don't get to just do whatever they want, whenever they want. It's always hard dealing with a controlling boss, but high school prepares you for that by giving you a controlling teacher. Life is hard, and high school is supposed to bridge the gap between life and an ideal, predictable, structured environment.

Re:School Censorship (4, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121980)

Sure, In Loco Parentis..."In place of parents" means they can do whatever your parents can do to you...On school property.

The real issue here is whether or not they have the right to go after you for things that you're doing off school property. In my mind, that's a definite no; their power relationship is governed by their location. At school, sure. Out of school? What's the theory behind that, and where does it end?

You're moving into a serious nanny state if you allow your educators to effectively assert control over your kids outside of a school environment. I understand why they feel the need...Lot of parents aren't holding up their end, so the schools feel like, in order to get something done, they have to do it themselves. I appreciate the frustration. However, it's a hugely bad precedent.

Re:School Censorship (3, Interesting)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122168)

>>>> The real issue here is whether or not they have the right to go after you for things that you're doing off school property

Thanks for the tip on In Loco Parentis, I looked it up on Wikipedia and the excerpt below demonstrates a court case that disagrees with your point of view. I agree with you and don't believe the school should have this power, unless you're representing the school i.e. in school uniform. I added the bold for emphasis:

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), when the Supreme Court decided that "conduct by the student, in class or out of it, which for any reason - whether it stems from time, place, or type of behavior - materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others is, of course, not immunized by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech."

Re:School Censorship (2, Interesting)

darkstar949 (697933) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122852)

Yes, but one of the items addressed by Tinker v. Des Moines was if the conduct would create "materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others is, of course, not immunized by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech." Or in other words, if the school can enforce something either isn't protected by the First Amendment, or would create a major distraction or disorder in the classroom which likely falls under the same principle of not being allowed to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

Bulling someone online may create a distraction or disorder in the classroom, but that cannot be assumed by default because first you have to prove that the other person would have found the information - just because something is posted on "" doesn't mean that John Doe is ever going to visit that site. A better case could be made for infringing on the rights of other if the site contains libel, but you can bully someone just as well with the pure (but sensitive) truth as you can by making things up and the school can't act as a third party to enforce libel issues.

So now you are back to where you started with good intentions, but no real practical way of enforcing such an issue off campus - odds are the safer route for the school would be to just blanket cyberbullying under the misuse of school computers (i.e. accessing, or posting such material on school grounds) and leave it at that.

Re:School Censorship (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122986)

materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder
Of course the schools don't understand adjectives like "materially" or "substantial", so they apply more Zero Tolerance so that any perceived infraction no matter how small that they think could disrupt or cause disorder gets blown way out of proportion so that it actually does, thereby justifying their action.

So (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18122328)

"Out of school? What's the theory behind that, and where does it end?"

So what does the school do if kid "a" gets a restraining order against kid "b"?

You can't have a kid threatening to kill another one outside of school and then legally force them to attend the same school all day. But then maybe the actual laws that are already on the books should be enforced instead of looked over.

"You're moving into a serious nanny state if you allow your educators to effectively assert control over your kids outside of a school environment."

Really? Because it used to be that educators had actual power and respect where they were almost second parents to the kids. It isn't the nanny state that is the problem, it's the parents who have removed educator's power by undermining every bit of their authority that is the problem. So no-tolerance laws are put in place because parents sue when the educators are allowed to make choices.

Re:School Censorship (2, Interesting)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122006)

I think you story goes to show that schools can't control what kids say. Your friends were able to publish and distribute a zine and wear shirts with profanity on it.

So the schools shouldn't stop "cyber bullying," but try to make a system that discourages bullying in the first place. I read somewhere that people end up bullying when they've got nothing better to do. Give these kids something productive, and they'll be too busy to worry about who smells or who slept with whom.

Re:School Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18122142)

In the words of the Tinker decision referred to in the original blurb: "Constitutional rights do not stop at the schoohouse gate". That case dealt with wearing armbands to protest the Vietnam war. Subsequent cases have somewhat restricted free speech (no swearing at high school graduation speeches, for instance), but by and large, they can restrict "time place and manner" of speech but not content. You can also restrict "obscene, libelous, and profane" or activities/content that might "incite a riot, disturb the peace, etc." However, mere suspicion that a disruption may occur isn't sufficient.

But perhaps what you were told wasn't exactly "rights" but "privileges".. you don't get the privilege of being shot at in a war or voting until you're 18, and in many states you don't get to buy alcoholic beverages until you're 21.

Re:School Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18122162)

Yeah, but it can still happen to you when you are over 18. See Morse v. Frederick [] . The Supreme Court looks like it might interfere in a Federal court ruling upholding the student's free speech rights. Hearings are March 17.

Re:School Censorship (3, Interesting)

Alchemar (720449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122334)

My nephew was written a ticket by a police officer for cursing when he ran his knee into the corner of the desk because "using inapporpriate language in school is illegal." They are no longer even pretending that children have any rights in school. The problem that I have with this is that the children then grow up thinking that this is how things are suppose to be, and don't complain when they get their rights taken away as an adult. The schools are there to eductate. I keep hearing paid advertisements on the radio about teaching the children by example as well as what you tell them and make them read. Either the schools think they are magically exempt from this principle, or someone is trying to teach people how to comply.

There are laws about threatening people. Let the police use them. Don't give the school the authority to proscecute criminal behavior based on "policy." If they want to give a kid extra homework for cursing that is one thing, but to give them a ticket?!? To give a kid extra homework for threatening someone life ... also not real productive. The schools need to seperate policy from law. Don't give teacher the power to punish for crimes without a trial, and don't give the justice system the power to proscecute for not following policy.

Going into a school is now harder than entering a military base. When I had to enter a military base, they checked my ID and then gave it back. The school takes your ID and refuses to return it as long as you are on campus. When I asked what they were doing with my ID, the lady that was carring it off, told me "not to worry about it", and another one said "they have to have it." When I stated rather loudly that I was making a formal request to know what they were doing with my ID card and my personal information, another teacher pulled me aside and said that they were faxing them to the police station for a criminal background check. I live in one of the few states where it is illegal not to have your ID on you. I am very uncomfortable with they keeping possession of it.

I was told by another teacher that school policy overrulled state law because it was to protect the children. On further questioning, she told me the same applied to the Bill of Rights. My solution was to not go to the school. Now they are trying to pass a law making a request for a parent teacher conference the same as a court supeana, if you don't show up, then you get a $500.00 fine, and a criminal record.

I was told that I had to fill out a notarized statement about residence. Then I was told that I had to use their notary, and that she was only available from 8am - 11am and 2pm-3pm on two days during the middle of the week before school starts. The whole purpose of getting something notarized is to veryify that you are the one that signed it, why does it have to be done in person, and why can't they set it up so that people could do it before or after work, or maybe even during lunch?

When started making calls to the school board I was told the the Principle of the school gets to decide how she wants things done. How is that for a democracy. The schools make up there own rules as they go. When I asked to see this policy in writting, it took two weeks to get an email back. When I asked what law gave them the right to enforce this policy, I was told it was because the school had too many people from out of the district trying to get in the school. They were completely at a loss when I explained that there is a difference between a law or ordinace granting them power, and a reason as to why they want to do it.

The teacher routinely send home letters requesting that the children send money the next day, that have very generic descriptions about what the money is for. They say things like we are having a party and need money for snacks. Then at the bottom ask the kids to also bring a drinks and cookies for the party. They make sure that they tell the kids that if they don't bring the money they don't get to participate with the other kids, and make sure you don't have enough time to ask them to clarify anything.

They send home letters for track and field day asking the family members to come watch. You show up, forfiet your ID, and then they tell you that younger siblings under the age required to go to school are not allowed to be in the building. Can't find it in the policy anywhere, but they assure you that has always been the policy, and you should have known, that is why they don't list it on the flyers.

Next track and field event, after you hire a babysitter, several families are allowed to bring a toddler in the school.

They make this stuff up as they go, and people just accept it because it is "policy." When will people realize that the school system is a goverment agency that is paid for by our tax dollars to provide a service to the public. We are trusting these people with our future generation. I don't want the future generation believing that they can't question anything that is "policy"

Re:School Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18123298)

Now they are trying to pass a law making a request for a parent teacher conference the same as a court supeana, if you don't show up, then you get a $500.00 fine, and a criminal record.
Come to think of it, that's not a bad idea.

If some knucklehead pops out kids that they aren't prepared to care for, they should be held responsible for every random act of stupidity that the little twit engages in. If you're too busy to show up at PTA meetings, you're too busy to properly care for your kid. Since someone else is stuck picking up the slack, $500.00 per infraction sounds like a good starting point.

CAPTCHA says "penalty"; is that ironic or what?

Notaries Public (1)

querist (97166) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123448)

I do not know in which state you live, but here in South Carolina a Notary Public is technically an officer of the court. The whole purpose behind the concept of Notaries Public is that they are appointed to serve as the verification point for such things.

In theory, at least here in SC, all notary signatures are equivalent. In other words, they could not require that you use any particular notary for anything. Again, the whole purpose behind a notary is that the notary is the trusted neutral party. (that is why in many states - but not SC - you cannot notarize family member signatures)

("disclaimer" I bave been a South Carolina Notary since 1994, my mother has been one in Mass. for over 40 years, my sister is a notary in Mass, etc. Having notaries in the family and as friends is really handy at times.)

Notary Trivia: In South Carolina, a Notary is allowed to sign marriage certificates along with a judge, a justice of the peace, and an ordained minister.

Re:School Censorship (1)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122348)

In the end, the punks made artwork and screened it onto shirts where it looked like a cool design but if you hooked your thumb and forefinger in it and pulled it down to cover up the inner four inches or so, it said "FUCK YOU." That way, they could choose to display the image whenever they wanted to and a teacher wasn't around. They weren't threatening people with it or harassing people, it was just their response to life and everything. The teachers found it offensive (and some of the dimmer students probably did too) so it was censored.

Isn't the whole point of a shirt that says, "Fuck you" to offend people?

Re:School Censorship (3, Funny)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122556)

A punk zine for a school that was often folded 8 1/2 x 11 pages stapled together ...

That's pretty impressive. I don't think I ever got my school folded down smaller than poster size.

Re:School Censorship (1)

Subsound90 (992770) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122638)

Schools can definately do things to kids for whats done outside. I know in any of mine any sort of violent infraction (assault, threatening, etc...) kids were expelled without discussion, property crimes (B & E, graffiti, etc) they were suspended for a week, and repeated harrasment the harrasser was sent to anther class (if there was only one class and they needed it they were sent to the remedial class). I think it's more of a harrasment type thing. If some one calls you something who cares, but if they put up a website devoted to your fat butt covered with derogatory terms or repeatidly harrass in any medium then the laws should be strengthed. My sister in law had a online harrasser and we had to go to the kids parents to threaten him that if he continued we would get a restraining order and call the cops to bother them everytime the kid posted another comment (imagion the school trying to accomidate a restraining order between 2 students.....). The school would do nothing itself, even though most of it came from school equipment to a school email/BB or verbal/physical things on school property. I consider school more of a work type arrangment, and if they want to continue coming they need to abide by the rules of conduct. Kids may not be 18, but they are there to learn and are intelligent enough to know it's not the right behavior. If parents won't step up to the plate to show kids the correct behavior, schools are usually the next held responsable so they should have the power and the responsability.

Problem (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18121740)

When I eat a lot of carrots, my semen tastes funny. Any one have this problem ? Solutions ?

Raising Questions (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18121764)

They must also raise the page impression count, and the associated ad revenue, given how often that same story is front paged here.

That will never work with an anonymous Internet (3, Insightful)

maynard (3337) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121770)

Laws regulating conduct cannot possibly be enforced in an anonymous public sphere. What's needed is a trusted computing system that tracks who uses a computer, when, and what they're doing. Then software could limit activities to what's legal and appropriate! We're almost there...

- Unique hardware identifiers on all CPUs and motherboards

- Laws that make it illegal to circumvent security systems

- Laws which force ISPs to track customer communications

Don't worry. We'll make the Internet safe for you and your children. And the SonyBMIMicrosoftUniversalMGM corpglomerate.

Re:That will never work with an anonymous Internet (1)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121822)

I know your above statement was made in jest, but the solutions to the problems posed by your above "advances" have been around for years.

Older hardware running Linux, Tor, and encryption. A firewall wouldn't be a terrible idea either.

Re:That will never work with an anonymous Internet (1)

maynard (3337) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121898)

You'll have to use a Pentium II or less. You should also avoid any commercial UNIX workstations as they've been embedding CPU IDs since the 1980s.

net id (2, Informative)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122408)

You'll have to use a Pentium II or less. You should also avoid any commercial UNIX workstations as they've been embedding CPU IDs since the 1980s.

So? The OS does not have to return it to the net, does it? Binary blobs for network cards and "smart" networks bother me more. Everyting else should be able to return something random.

Re:That will never work with an anonymous Internet (1)

mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122012)

Or you could always pin a message up on the school noticeboard.

Re:That will never work with an anonymous Internet (1)

shotgunsaint (968677) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122402)

Just be sure you don't print it out on your printer, as it's traceable.

Not for the courts (4, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121778)

Surely bullying should be dealt with at the level of teachers/parents? Putting these things into law just seems like asking for trouble - potentially making the minor incidents of growing up into major issues that will scar children for life.

Re:Not for the courts (1)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121838)

Exactly, just like the ridiculous zero-tolerance weapons policy at some schools. The elementary school I went to had a kid pick up one of those little plastic cocktail swords on the playground (who knows why it was there) during recess. The teacher saw him with it and he was suspended. The parents fought it with the school board and lost. Does that making any sense whatsoever?

Re:Not for the courts (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121880)

Well, as long as the bullies don't plan to go to Canada within the next 200 years, it should pose no problem.

Re:Not for the courts (1)

skoaldipper (752281) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121888)

Not for the courts? I disagree.

"Kylie Kenney explained how some kids at her school had created a web site that called for her death, then harassed her for several years with phone calls and e-mails, even after she transferred schools."

Death threats? Something seriously wrong with local police departments allowing death threats to continue like this for years.

Re:Not for the courts (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121990)

if death threats are illegal anyway, you don't need new laws. If death threats aren't illegal anyway, why should they suddenly become illegal for the specific case of them being propagated through the internet?

Re:Not for the courts (1)

skoaldipper (752281) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122618)

> if death threats are illegal anyway, you don't need new laws.

Yes, you do. Or at least consider a careful re-examination of the old ones. FTA,

"On the other hand, most student speech is protected, even if insulting or hurtful. Courts have gradually increased the protection for student speech over the last 100 years"

Which is what I tried to infer in my first post. Something is broken here. Do you really think local law enforcement municipalities are ignorant of the law, allowing this to occur over several years? The article even addresses at length the complications between freedom of speech issues (taken on school grounds, which this example had) and law enforcement. In case you missed it FTA, students were using the school internet here.

Re:Not for the courts (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123086)

so your argument is that we should reconsider allowing students the right to say insulting and hurtful things as free speech because they choose to exercise that more than any other section of society? ("you can only have rights so long as you don't use them").
If they're using the school internet then the school can regulate it with school rules, you don't need laws for that (other than to make the school rules legal, but that doesn't raise the severity of the issue as making the action criminally illegal would). If they're using their own internet then the school can keep it's nose out of it. If it is illegal that's a learning experience for bullies - mollycoddling them into thinking that anything they do, ever, will only be a breach of the school rules does not discourage them from doing it. On the other hand if it's not illegal then it's a learning experience for the 'victim' that nanny school rules won't always be there to protect them.

Re:Not for the courts (1)

aplusjimages (939458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122010)

But there is already a law that prohibits death threats. This doesn't sound like a school issue, it sounds like a law enforcement issue.

Re:Not for the courts (1)

skoaldipper (752281) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123190)

Since several states are considering this tells me the distinction between law enforcement reach and Freedom of Speech issues at school is blurry. Neither the police or school quite know how to address these internet cases; apparently, even the Supreme Court has yet to deal with such a case.

Maybe this [] will shed some light on my concerns:

"More than a year before the April 20 massacre at Columbine High School, police and school officials were warned that one of the gunmen, Eric Harris, was detonating pipe bombs and talking about killing people on his Web site.

But no charges were filed because investigators could not locate the Web site. And even if they had, it is apparently not illegal to post threats on the Internet, said Lt. John Kiekbusch of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department."

* My concern is that even after some 8 years of high profile cases like these, it is still occurring (as this article points out with the little girl). Apparently, law enforcement and schools are still equally confused here. Still believe no changes or review of existing laws are necessary?

Re:Not for the courts (2, Insightful)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121986)

News flash : This is NOT "minor incidents".

In the current "switched on era" you can be harassed 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Kids can make you live in fear constantly, torture you and basicly give you scars for life all through cell phones and e-mail. Maybe you should speak to some of these people who got put through hell and tell them to "get over it".

As technology grows (and the youth of today grows up faster) we should be starting to deal with this stuff sooner.

Re:Not for the courts (1)

(A)*(B)!0_- (888552) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122046)

"As technology grows (and the youth of today grows up faster) we should be starting to deal with this stuff sooner."
And why is this behavior not covered under existing harassment laws?

Re:Not for the courts (2, Funny)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122082)

Since when do you need a cell phone? And why do you have to give out your number?

Seems if kids just want to avoid needless distractions they shouldn't be carrying pagers, beepers, cellphones and talking on phpbb boards during school. And besides, kids are assholes. It's what they do. Just realize that the "popular" bullies usually end up serving you subway when you're finished your degree.



Re:Not for the courts (2, Interesting)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122284)

I had something similar happen recently. I went back home and ran out to get the pizza we ordered. Behind the counter stood someone from my high school graduating class. Back then, he was top dog. All the girls fawned all over him. He had a nice car and went to all the parties.

Now I'm the one with the nice car. I'm the one who's got a beautiful wife and a baby on the way and a great new job. And he's still working at the pizza place, still flirting with high school girls, and driving his now old, beat up car.

Re:Not for the courts (3, Interesting)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122346)

Always pays to be modest though. I never mock or belittle my former 'peers" when I see them in those roles. Inside I may laugh a bit, but to be honest I think they know how much they fucked up. Plus, never piss off the dude making yer food :-)

Was kinda funny though, in my classes [in the advance stream] I was always the person people felt wouldn't make it, yet I was the one doing international talking engagements and working before even finishing my degree. w00t.

Actually, the best was when I met up with one of the former peers who was always kinda a brainer. I had just got back from a business trip to France, [while still in college]. I asked her what she was studying, "international business." Oh that's nice :-)


Re:Not for the courts (1)

koreaman (835838) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122254)

The discussion isn't about whether severe harrasment should be against the law. In my opinion it should, others may feel differently, but that's not the point here.

The point is that we already have institutions dedicated to enforcing laws, namely the legal system and police force. The school system is dedicated to educating, not protecting, its students. Anything that directly affects or is directly related to this education falls under its authority. Anything else doesn't. If something is truly harmful then it should of course be illegal and should be prosecuted by our legal system. The school system shouldn't be involved.

Re:Not for the courts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18122350)

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Remember that.

The youth of today do just need to get over it. People make fun of other people - have since the dawn of time, will until the end of time. Suck it up.

If you're unwilling to make that simple effort, then learn to use the Block feature of almost all communication systems. Electronic communication makes dealing with bullies easier, not harder.

Re:Not for the courts (1)

pubjames (468013) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123280)

News flash : This is NOT "minor incidents".

News flash: These are children. At school.

I expect everyone here on Slashdot can recount something that happened during their childhood that was not a "minor incident"... We all did stupid things when we were kids. But overreaching to that stuff, or reacting in the wrong way, can do more damage than the incident itself.

I'm not saying this isn't serious stuff. But parents, teachers, and the kids themselves are usually able to deal with serious stuff in the correct way.

Re:Not for the courts (1)

penguinbrat (711309) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122282)

Who cares if they are 'seared' just as long as they are protected right? At least this is the way that this BS seems to be going.

What's the issue? (4, Insightful)

koreaman (835838) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121786)

Why can't they just use whatever standards they've always used, if any, to regulate off-school speech? THe fact that the speech occurs online shouldn't change anything.

Freedom has layers (5, Insightful)

pzs (857406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121798)

1st Amendment rights is one thing, but a variety of laws restrict freedom of speech if it slanders, intimidates or incites others. This is true in the real world and probably, as has already been pointed out, this applies even more in schools where you're trying to teach children to be responsible citizens.

That's the problem with trumpeting "freedom" as a great virtue. Too much freedom means that you would have to legalise a variety of evils such as child abuse and racial discrimination. Freedom to do something needs the proviso that it does not restrict the freedom of others, which is a bit more of a subtle concept.


In NC it's considered terrorism (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121848)

In North Carolina if a minor screams something out which is offensive, inflammatory or threatening to more than one person it's considered terrorism or making a terroristic threat. For 16 yo and above it can be charged as a felony and while it's not often charged as one, it's not unheard of. So one can extrapolate and guess that making threats online is also terrorism or making a terroristic threat. Free speech be damned we're talking PATRIOT act here. And what better group of people to apply it to than people who can't vote but who are charged as adults in the first place?

Re:In NC it's considered terrorism (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121940)

Free speech be damned we're talking PATRIOT act here.

Funny. In Pennsylvania we have the same exact thing. And it is called terrorist threats too and was well before 9/11, the Patriot act or the Unibomber.

Re:In NC it's considered terrorism (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121978)

In Pennsylvania we have the same exact thing. And it is called terrorist threats too and was well before 9/11, the Patriot act or the Unibomber.

Sorry, that should be "terroristic threats". I wanted to correct myself before someone jumped up and down on my ass.

Children don't have rights. (1)

Skylinux (942824) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121858)

To loosely quote the comment my English teacher wrote on one of my papers: "In the USA, children have no rights."

Re:Children don't have rights. (1)

illegalcortex (1007791) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122838)

To loosely quote the Supreme Court of the United States - "She's wrong."

Re:Children don't have rights. (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122902)

To loosely quote the comment my English teacher wrote on one of my papers: "In the USA, children have no rights."

Did your teacher also write down, "In the USA, children also don't have the same obligations or liability for their actions as an adult." ?

Children are presumed to be lacking the judgement and experience to understand the relationship between rights and accountability. That's what their parents or guardians are there to provide, and is one of the reasons that many jurisdictions find parents to be liable for some of what their kids do (or don't do!).

Of course the "children have no rights" notion is BS. Trying to look at behavioral rules applied within a publicly funded school as if they are the same as when a kid is in his front yard or with his parents at the beach is nonsense.

Re:Children don't have rights. (1)

computational super (740265) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122908)

Yet, ironically, our elected officials consistently cite the "rights" of the children as their reason for eradicating the few remaining rights that adults still have.

Depends ont he schools (1)

shirizaki (994008) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121860)

I went to a private high school and due to things posted on a non school affiliated forum that was owned by one of my classmates about the school he was expelled our Senior year. It was taken to court and my school said that since we signed the code of conduct it included provisions that allowed them to enforce their rules while we were at home.

I don't know how this applies to public schools, but they have to follow mandates and laws setup byt he government, since their funding comes from the government. So yes, they can do this. Just like the government defines libel, hate speech, and etc.

But I stand for the bullies on this one. I was bullied throughout my early years, and it taught me to stand up for myself and to not pay attention to people who need to belittle me to make themselves feel better. Having the government involved only pets the egos of bullies.

There's also block lists, email filters, etc. for those who feel really harassed. I mean, come the **** on, this is supposed to be the tech generation, and they can't block bullies?!

Re:Depends ont he schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18122062)

Too bad you cant block, filter or firewall bullies in the school yard or on the way home from school.

Re:Depends on the schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18122720)

Posting anon...
Its great you developed a "doesn't bother me" attitude while still in grade school, but a great many kids don't develop their mental "thick skin" so quickly -- some not even at all. I was teased and tormented, physically and emotionally, at school myself -- just at school, mind you, as the pervasive connectedness of the internet was still years away. And even so, had I had access to a firearm on just the wrong day, Columbine might have happened years ahead of when it did. (I was certainly only half an emotional breakdown away from being in the right mindset.) I shudder in horror at the ways bullying can literally follow some unlucky victim around (any location or time of day) these days. Still, I don't think a specific "law" necessarily needs to be drafted just because bullying has moved online. I also don't know what would really "help" the victims, though, either.

Usurping Parental Role...Again (2, Insightful)

blueZhift (652272) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121874)

While it may be perfectly legal for schools to censor students and sanction them on school time and with regard to school equipment, they should keep their noses out of what students say and do beyond the campus. Clearly, off campus issues are the realm of the students' parents and family. When schools start trying to assert authority outside of the school, it is just another intrusion by the state on parental authority and responsibility. And with respect to free speech, speech that makes direct threats against another person is not protected anyway. We already have laws covering that as a form of assault. There is no need for new and likely unconstitutional laws on this matter. Enforce the laws already on the books and let parents do what they are supposed to be doing.

Re:Usurping Parental Role...Again (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122596)

When schools start trying to assert authority outside of the school, it is just another intrusion by the state on parental authority and responsibility.

The problem here, IMO, is that too many parents are all too happy to give up their responsibilities and authority. Look at the parents who sued MySpace because they didn't know what their daughter was doing online.

Bullying? (3, Insightful)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121934)

Would you let another adult verbally torture someone? I don't think so.

Bullying is at best abuse and at worse it is outright torture. If we force children to goto school (and hence come into contact with kids who will bully them) then we must accept that we are in a sense damning these children to things none of us should ever have to face. Your "free speech" bullshit ends the moment you start using your free speech to put someone through complete hell for kicks.

I say the second any kid is caught bullying another he is sent to a prison for children. We're way past the stage where it's a bit of verbal abuse when we constantly hear kids are carrying knives (and even guns in some cases). These people are the bullys and by the time they're 13-14 they are acting like adult criminals. So lets make them act like adults and slap them in a prison the second they cross the line between "being kids" and "outright torture".

Internet or in the real world. Bullying is torture of another human being, it should be seen as such and not "just kids messing around".

Re:Bullying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18122656)

How can you "verbally torture" someone ? I'm sorry, but I don't get it. How can you compare a simple verbal threat with breaking someones fingers one by one or burning their skin with a piece of red hot metal ? During my military service I had to endure things probably far worse than any bullied kid had to endure... And I didn't even call that torture.

I'd like to know what is worse : saying "I will put a nail under each of your nail"... or actually doing it. Which one do you think is worse ?

Re:Bullying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18123344)

It's dumber than that. "Mental torture" is basically a very fancy and stupid way to say "name calling".

A common example would be something like "you'd have to be retarded to think that mental torture is simply threatening physical torture - ever manage to move to shoes with laces on them or are you still stuck with loafers, because even Velcro was too hard for you?"

Feel the torture!

The best part is that the "bullies" who do the "mental torture" are frequently the type of people that no one really cares about their opinion anyway.

So you've got some loser saying nasty things to some thin-skinned wimp, and the wimp manages to claim it as "mental torture".

If ever you wanted proof that America is becoming a nanny-state, it'd have to be people trying to create laws against name calling.

Re:Bullying? (2, Interesting)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122952)

Well, you certainly have some strong feelings on this subject. I'm going to assume that you still carry a grudge against your group of bullies.

You seem to fail to realize that the major issue here is psychology. Children do not have the ability to empathize with the people around them. They do not feel the pain of others, that's a later development. In this respect, children share some of the major tendencies of adult sociopaths. You advocate treating them like adult sociopaths. That's all fine and dandy, but consider what prison does to people, what it will do to people during the aptly named 'formative years', and the fact that you are punishing them harshly for something that they will not understand the problem with for at least a couple more years, assuming an environment that is conducive to such learning.

You state that bullying is akin to mental torture. Perhaps in your case it was. But in other cases, it's a useful tool for teaching kids that you can't always get what you want. A necessary repression of the id, if you will. Otherwise, you get kids that spend all their life never having been forced towards social norms of any sort. The kid who picks his nose and eats it is getting bullied because of it? Good. Maybe he'll learn to stop before he hits the real world. I'll agree that bullying needs to be monitored to stop things like 'the kid who is vastly smarter than the others is getting bullied because of it,' but in most cases, being bullied is an important learning tool.

Re:Bullying? (3, Insightful)

Undertaker43017 (586306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123152)

Did you go to high school in the US? Bullying has been going on in high schools forever, "cyberbullying" is just adaption for modern times. Unfortunately most school districts have largely ignored it for decades. BTW, bringing knives to school is not a new problem, bullies have always brought knives (and other weapons, bats/2x4's were a favorite at my HS) to school.

While I agree no one should be subjected to verbal or physical abuse, sending the bully to prison won't work. Removing the bully from the learning environment is not the right solution, that just creates more criminals.

The problem is huge, and had school districts not ignored the problem for so long and developed effective ways of dealing with it, we wouldn't have this problem. Bullies are not getting their needs meet in some way, either the school is not challenging them enough and they are bored or they find it too challenging and are attacking kids that are "smarter" then they are. I don't believe most bullies are actually criminally psychotic and deserve to be locked up. The schools need to do a better job of meeting the needs of all students and give up on the "all size fits all model".

Re:Bullying? (1)

Suriyel (230254) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123274)

School is a prison for kids. It takes the innocent or non-violent offenders, tosses them in with the hardcore lifers, with only the occassional inmate actually learning something beyond skills useful in a life of crime after their mandatory sentence.

Re:Bullying? (1)

Kwesadilo (942453) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123312)

So lets make them act like adults and slap them in a prison the second they cross the line between "being kids" and "outright torture".

That's a hard line to draw.

Stick and stones (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18121950)

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never harm me.

Bullying is physical and threatening, 'cyber bullying' isn't. These are victim culture laws, make a law that puts self declared 'victims' at an advantage and everyone will claim to be a victim.

Miss, Miss, he's looking at me funny.
Miss, Miss, Tony said I was a panty sniffer on the internet.
Miss, Miss I got modded down in Slashdot and now I'm not feeling so happy.

Being too weak to cope with life's ruff and tumble is not a good thing. If you're such a pussy that harsh words make you commit suicide then you're designed to die, you'd die at your first tax audit, your first dump from a cute girl, your first sacking from a job, you first disagreement with anyone.

Trying to make the world a fluffy safe place for deficient kids would be a disaster. They go out into the real world and fall apart.

Damn I got modded down.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18122616)

Oh no I got modded down, now I'm not feeling so happy.
Well goodbye cruel worlds.


Such a thing as too much freedom.. (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121954)

I know that "Freedom" is something all good citizens of the USA hold dear but I think freedom needs to be moderated in some cases. It's a great thing when you're the biggest kid in the class and can say what you like including intimidating and harassing the little kids. Not so great when you're the small kid who's being bullied. Some kids are better than others at arguing their point, standing up for their beliefs/rights/ etc and need help when they are not able to do so.

The strong will always be able to look after their own interests, I think we should judge a society by how it looks after its weak.

Re:Such a thing as too much freedom.. (1)

dcskier (1039688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122140)

I see your point, but is legislation really the answer? Teachers/Parents still retain the option to punish kids, as they should and have been doing for years and years. We need rules against bullying (online and off), but I don't think we need to have laws against it.

Bullying is often by omission. (1)

Glowing Fish (155236) | more than 7 years ago | (#18121958)

If the bullying is a clear threat, it should be treated like any other threat. Making threats against people is a crime, in any form.

But on the other hand, smart bullies (and most bullies are smart, at least when it comes to hurting others), often bully other ways: through put-downs and cruel comments that are not direct. So if someone posts a comment on the internet that makes an indirect comment about someone's clothing or habits, can anything really be proven? And when is a remark about fashion or hairstyles go from being just an expression of opinion to being a form of persecution?

Bullies often also work through exclusion as much as anything else. How can that be stopped?

So, if the law is just meant to stop threats, that is one thing. But to stop the hydra of bullying, targeting specific expressions is both very hard, and perhaps not right at all.

CS takes care of cyberbullies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18121974)

"BOOMHEADSHOT!!! stop camping, BOOMHEADSHOT!!!, you lamer... ... BOOMHEADSHOT!!!"

Works also in real life (according to infotainment).

No control off school? (1)

spune (715782) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122018)

> "School officials do not generally have control over what students do outside of school,"

Who wrote this and when was the last time they were inside a school? In the past several years, nationwide it has been reaffirmed that schools can punish kids for whatever the school wants. Smoked something over the weekend? That's the school's business. Made fun of your teacher on MySpace from your home computer? That's the school's business again. School officials do have control of students outside of school, and increasingly have sweeping powers that are rarely even contested.

They threw babies out of the incubatorsI (1)

gd23ka (324741) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122040)

"Kylie Kenney explained how some kids at her school had created a web site that called for her death, then harassed her for several years with phone calls and e-mails, even after she transferred schools."

I call bullshit! Come on! Kids with an attention span of less than thirty seconds harass a girl
for years after she left the school??! Get real and spare us the "They threw the babies out of
the incubator"- PR-spin. l []

Odd place to start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18122044)

They don't take care of the bullying going on inside the school so why should they start on the web. When a rumour is started inside the school how do they control that? I hope some of the kids getting harassed are hacker geeks. Talk about some cyber retaliation. Just defile their myspace page or render their pc useless.

Here's a novel thought... (2, Informative)

DoctorPepper (92269) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122052)

Make the parents culpable for what their nasty little whelps do. The vast majority of this stuff goes on either because the bully's parents don't know, or they just don't care. Either way, the parents aren't doing their job properly.

Perhaps if these parents had to pay some hefty fines and/or do some jail time for their offspring's indiscretions, they might be a bit more inclined to pay more attention to what their kids are doing.

Was I bullied? Yes, mercilessly. I was one of those skinny, geeky kids back in high school (science nerd), as were, I suspect, quite a few other Slashdotters. I am just thankful that was back in the 1970's, before computers and the Internet revolution. At least I was safe in my own home.

Re:Here's a novel thought... (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122196)

Well, nowadays the geeky kids are the ones who have the power. It would be so easy to hack someone's system to put kiddie porn on it and get them charged with a felony, especially the mouth-breathing troglodites that bullies usually are.

Heck, they probably already have something on their computer that they could get in trouble for. Just hack in, find the evidence, and submit it anonymously to the police. Problem solved.

Re:Here's a novel thought... (2, Insightful)

duflar (1066896) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122724)

"nowadays the geeky kids are the ones who have the power"??? are you kidding me? Parents who let their children run wild are letting their kids run wild. That's it. Knowing what your kids do is part of PARENTING. Parents have the initial and potentially the strongest influence on the behavior of their children. Everything their children do from before they are 1 week old until long after they have their children is heavily influenced by what their parents chose to do and chose to NOT do.(and how they do it.) It's pathetic how people look for other excuses to cover their own mistakes. No one ever said parenting was easy, but society grants so many rights to parents that it'd be nice if they actually had a responsibility or two along the way. Contrary to what lawmakers seem to believe, there's more to parenting than not murdering your children and not explicitly commanding them to commit crimes. There are plenty of other ways that they can (and do)screw up. If your kid kills himself/herself because of online harassment, one of the first reactions should be to investigate the parents of the deceased to see if they need to have their surviving children removed from them.

Re:Here's a novel thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18122734)

Amen. I'm a librarian at a public library, and we banned a local student for a month for vandalism and harassment. He just kept coming. We kept throwing him out and then calling the cops to escort him out, but until the director finally agreed to press trespassing charges, he (and his parents) didn't care. After he was socked with four trespassing charges, the associated fines, and the threat of a juvenile detention facility if he received one more charge, his parents suddenly started making sure he didn't visit the library anymore while he was banned.

It's too bad it went that far, but we'd sent two letters home and the director had called and talked to his mother on the telephone, and the police had also had some words with them. They had plenty of warning.

Re:Here's a novel thought... (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123102)

Make the parents culpable for what their nasty little whelps do.

If I have a dog, and it bites someone, I can be held accountable. If I have a cat, and it keeps defecating in someones petunias, I can be held accountable. If I have a pet rat, and it escapes and starts breeding, I can be held accountable.

But if I have a child, and I let it run amok, harassing, assaulting, stealing, you name it... I am not held accountable at all? For that matter, neither is my child. So we have crimes being comitted here, for which no one is being held to account. Well, there's one thing I can guarantee. If there are no consequences for an action, that action will be committed.

Bill of Rights (3, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122066)

I'd like to know where in the bill of rights there is a qualifier that says you must be above a certain age to have your god given rights given to you. Yes, they may be under age but they still have every damned right that adults have. This is just the govt's way of creating submissive idiots that don't understand their rights. "We never were able to say what we wanted" will continue into adult hood. Much like how recent high school graduates thought the 1st amendment gave "too much freedom"

Public schooling has created a nation of "do what my gov't says" lemmings.

First amendment has little to do with it (5, Insightful)

sesquipedalian_one (639698) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122108)

Free speech, what a crock! Not all forms of verbal behavior are covered by the first amendment. Is sexual harassment licensed by free speech? The real issue hear is the scope of the school's powers. Clearly, they are entitled to try to stop bullying that occurs on school property. We would be outraged if they didn't, whether that bullying was physical or verbal. The real question is to what extent they have they right to take action when something occurs away from school.

Re:First amendment has little to do with it (1)

computational super (740265) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123232)

Is sexual harassment licensed by free speech?

Well, if anybody ever needed an example of the slippery slope in action, this would be it.

This is rediculous (0, Flamebait)

DJ Jones (997846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122184)

This kind of over protection of our children is getting out of control. I am convinced this is why the U.S. is falling behind in math and science. We shelter our kids from any possible mal treatment or "bullying" or OMG "letter grading systems" that could "traumatize" them for life. Let me tell you, someday these kids, maybe your kids, are going to grow up and they are going to have to know how to deal with mean people and real life situations.

Because in reality, life is tough. When these kids grow up they're not going to have their school board or the American court system to save them. They're going to have to learn how to survive in the real world, a globalized world that competes on a much higher level. A world where grown-up "bullies" exist as well and they're going to have to learn to deal with them.

I got my ass kicked as a freshman in high school, I got put in my place and I truly believe I am a better person today because of it.

Bullshit (2, Insightful)

iceperson (582205) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123002)

I hear stuff like this all of the time and I can say that in the real world you don't have to put up with teasing and bullying. Lastly, bullying doesn't make victims stronger. It scars them, and many times it causes lasting trauma that can affect the victim's ability to function in the workplace. In fact, many people who have suffered long term abuse from bullies can't even have a real relationship with another human being. Not everyone is you, stop projecting your experiences and your abilities to cope on everyone else.

The purpose of "freedom of speech" (1)

Caspian (99221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122248)

Freedom of speech exists so that the powerless are allowed to criticise the powerful without fear of retribution, not so that the powerful are allowed to torment the powerless without fear of retribution.

nothing wrong with the 1st ammendment (2, Insightful)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122280)

along with freedom of speech comes being responsible with what an individual says, why do people forget this simple rule...

Cyberbullying usually violates a lot of other laws (1)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122302)

It can be considered stalking, harassment, terroristic threat, and (if other people read what is written) libel. The problem is that the authorities don't take it seriously until a kid gets his hands on a gun and someone gets hurt.

Let's just apply the law as it exists and slap the bullies around when they break the law. If they're posting lies about someone they don't like, charge them with libel. If they're making threats, put them in jail and explain you don't get to do that. We don't need more laws to make this work.

Oh yeah, and also teach the "victim" how to use the ignore button. More often than not bullies get their fun because their target talks back.

too many selfish replies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18122390)

It truly is incredible to read some of these posts, selfish motivations to discount anything that restricts any aspect of your lives. I can't wait until some of these people have their own kids this age and get to deal with it.

Freedom demands responsibility (5, Insightful)

bcharr2 (1046322) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122432)

I am constantly surprised by the number of Americans who have grown up and enjoyed the privileges, protections, and liberties of the wealthiest and most democratic society that humanity has ever seen, only to constantly complain about how bad they have it, how terrible their country is, and how oppressed they and their freedoms are.

To people throughout most of history, the inability to have an active voice in their government, and the strong possibility that they would be imprisoned or killed for voicing dissent with said government, was oppression.

To many Americans, seeking to discipline young people who attempt to belittle and humiliate their classmates with impunity shielded by the anonymity of the internet, is oppression.

If the one thing children learn from these laws is that freedom is not given, but must be earned (even if it was the previous generations that paid the price) and that therefore it demands a certain amount of vigilance from its benefactors to steward their freedoms in a responsible manner, instead of merely exploiting their freedoms for personal satisfaction, then all the better.

improper 1st amendment interpretation (1)

Robocoastie (777066) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122468)

the 1st amendment historically and quite clearly is about a relationship between the people and the government, not between people. That is why you can be sued for libel, wrongful _x_ and so on.

That being said though I feel common sense should kick in and say that anyone that lets it go so far as to "cause them" to commit suicide had a problem to begin with and the other party does not bear the whole responsibility at all.

There's a simiple solution to so called "cyberbullying" - put the stupid computer in the living room or kitchen NOT in the kids' bedroom so they can be observed, put a more secure OS on the computer and learn to fracking use it parents so you can monitor the computer and even have it automatically filter and/or shut down. STOP pretending your kids are miniature adults, - the psychobabble people are WRONG, kids are children, NOT mini-adults so stop listening to those quacks and do your f-ing jobs parents!

Blanket laws a bad idea (2, Insightful)

TheWoozle (984500) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122472)

Even here on Slashdot, we see a range of reactions to this issue from "Childhood bullying is just a part of growing up" to "Any bully should be thrown in prison".

Reasonably, the response should be proportional to the offense. One child pushing another on the playground should provoke a different response than one child sending death threats to another.

As with any issue like this, blanket laws tend to remove the ability of those involved to deal with the issue in a proportional manner - instead requiring a Procrustean approach to determining what a violation is and handing out punishment.

While I share the concern over the increasing levels of school violence, and I acknowledge that children can be cruel to one another (I endured my own share of being bullied), I would caution against passing laws that remove the power of the responsible authorities (the parents and school administrators) to deal with the situation in a sane and appropriate manner.

This is not a matter for the courts (-1, Flamebait)

digginestdogg (1067682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122492)

The US education system is falling apart. Tolerance is far too high for disruptive and anti-social behaviors. It is all well and good to talk about rights and free speech, but in the end studetns are no full adult citizens: they aren't entirely ready for it--both the freedom and the responsibiity. But they should be gradually introduced to both while in school as they mature. So of the complaints are undoubtedly hyperble and over-zealous editors and reporters trying to make 'news', but no ne can look at the metal deectors and guns and drugs in schools and tell me there are no serious respect and behavior problems in the nation's schools there weren't 20 years ago. It is a societal and school responsibility. The parenst of these children should be notified and in formed they are to police their children or face consequences: their children will be expelled from school ultimately. Public deucation should be a right only until the end of middle school. After that good citizenship and behavior should be mandatory--from both the students and their parents. Approriate escalations of probation, restrictions, and dismisslals should be undertaken as well as peer pressure. The purpose of school is to learn and students have a responsbility to focus on that. If they cannot or will not, they should be considered to have relinquished their privilege to further eudcation at taxpayers and other student's expense. We don't need a law for each specific behavior: we need a studetn's and teacher's bill of rights, privileges, and behaviors. You agree to ti and if you violate it, proper actions are taken. Period.

Free Speech? (4, Insightful)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122498)

Yes, you have the right of Free Speech protected under the First Amendment.. until what you say infringes on the right of someon else, which makes your speech unprotected.

Threatening another person, in my opinion, infringes on their rights and would not be protected under the First Amendment.... even if it's done on a myspace page.

But you also can't throw the book at every kid who says something.. kids will be kids. It's definitely a fine line to walk.

Obvious (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122510)

Should be obvious whats going on.

Get the young children used to being oppressed, their shoulders used to being looked over. If that's all they remember they won't try to fight for anything better.

I missed the good old days when schools wouldn't try to flat out control you. It wasn't until middle school when they decided we couldn't wear 'gang colors' (in the middle of suburbia, where most kids couldn't name the name of any gang in the world). Anything red or blue was banned and grounds for suspension.

That lasted all of a week, because some people organized a mass walk-out. All of the students simply didn't return from lunch. We all stood in the courtyard. They threatened, yelled, etc. Some kids cracked and went back inside. But most everyone was outside. The police basically said, "Nothing we can do here." It sent a very strong message to the decision makers who then actually issued an apology for being dumb.

Educators have been neutered (2, Interesting)

Yaddoshi (997885) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122696)

My parents are both educators, and based on their stories about work, I've come to the conclusion that today's public school system, at least in New York state, is all about avoiding a lawsuit at all costs. All children pass every grade level, regardless of their academic achievement or ability or willingness to learn. Teachers are no longer permitted to so much as speak in anger while reprimanding a student, much less yell or put their hands on students. They have absolutely no control over their classrooms, and once the students figure this out, daily classes turn into chaos.

This is not fair for the students who actually have a desire to learn. Try learning something in a class where the students openly mock the teacher sometime, and see how much is accomplished in that short 30-40 minute period. It's like trying to be a Microsoft network administrator with a staff that downloads viruses and porn to their computers daily and expect you to fix it - nothing ever gets done. I've been told this issue is not just in New York, but other places as well, especially in the major cities.

How is it remotely possible for an administration that has been effectively neutered by mainstream society to stop cyber bullying?

On top of that, how many parents understand computers enough to be able to prevent their children from committing these deeds. After all, they are the only ones left with the authority to do so short of the local police.

...and people wonder why my wife and I are homeschooling our children.

This is silly (1)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122736)

Teach kids not to give a rat's ass about what others say.

I went to a french private school, where everything was imported from France, up to the teaching methods.

One of those was that, whenever you screwed-up, the teacher would encourage other kids to laugh at you. So, under those circumstances, you quickly learned not to give a shit about what others said of you.

Re:This is silly (1)

dvicci (22294) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123042)

"Teach kids not to give a rat's ass about what others say."

Far better to teach kids to respect each other. It's a real short trip from not caring what they say, to not caring how they feel. Children can be cruel enough as it is w/o encouraging that. Teach them compassion and respect, a sense of community and belonging, rather than apathy.

Freedom of speech is NOT freedom to bully... (1)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#18122992)

It's been seen time and time again, freedom of speech is NOT absolute freedom. Threatening someone still is a crime. Going up to people and saying "I'm going to kill you" will still get you put in jail.

Slander and Libel shouldn't be possible if we have true freedom of speech, but of course just because you've the freedom of speech, doesn't mean your speech should take away other's rights or make them fearful.

non-school bullying in Korea and Japan (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123028)

I've heard people will make allegations agaisnt one another in the blogoshere in the these countries, then thousands will harass the allegee to point of suicide, divorce or job loss. Its often hard to track down who made the original allegation and whether there was any truth to it.

There is also some net vigliantism in the USA. The Dateline - Perverted Justice team come to mind where they post identities of pedophile stalkers. But there have been allegations of mistakes in the past, and a suicide of a defendent on NBC this week.

To me this sounds like a potent weapon. I wonder if the mobs or the government have the wisdom not to abuse it.

Direct Involvement as a last restort (1)

dws90 (1063948) | more than 7 years ago | (#18123228)

Schools should have the ability to intervene, but only when the parent option has failed. If a school notices that one of their students is bullying another off of school grounds and disrupting the student's learning, then they should call the parents of both kids. It's then up to the parents of the offending kid to get him (or her) to stop. That's the ideal world. But this world certainly isn't ideal.

hile that would work much of the time, there are some pretty pathetic parents out there - parents who won't care or who actually encourage that kind of behavior ("It's all part of growing up"). The parents of the victim, of course, have absolutely no control over the offender (unless they lived in Texas, in which case they would just go over and shoot the son-of-a-*****), and so nothing can be done. This is where the school comes in. It does have power over the offender, and by now the offender is becoming a major disruption to the learning environment. If the parents aren't doing anything, it's the schools duty to step in. If the bullying happened on-campus, of course, then the school should always be able to step in. On campus, it's god.

Think about the big, grown-up person version of this: an adult is facing "bullying" via the internet from someone that they know IRL. It gets so bad that they can no longer get their job done. The first step, of course, is to contact the offender, and tell him (or her....then again, all women on the Internet are men, so that point's moot) to stop. Of course, this doesn't always work, and there's nothing that the victim can do to stop it himself. Instead, the next step is to either file a lawsuit or contact the police. The courts and the police are the adult version of the school in this case - they intervene when the victim has exhausted every other option that he can do on his own.

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