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Cyberbullying Laws Raise Free Speech Questions 218

Posted by Zonk
from the keep-your-fingers-clean dept.
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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Cyberbullying Laws Raise Free Speech Questions

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  • School Censorship (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:19AM (#18121734) Journal

    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.
    • ...rebels without a cause.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by utopianfiat (774016)
        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
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DJCacophony (832334)
          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, predictabl
          • What the fuck ever. Public Education is dying a pathetic death in the name of pragmaticism. It doesn't prepare you for the 'real life'. The life you experience in school is real, there is no fabrication of reality.

            Our society has painted a picture of an industrial and business run economy, and education is just to fill the gap?. Well fuck, let's go tell our ancestors thanks for burning on the cross for opening up the minds of people, but unfortunately your views on reality don't fill the gap, so we're go

            • If you're so concerned about not being "a slave to business" which I assume is code for "working for a company", then you're free to not pay attention in class, skip school, not go to college, and spend your life begging for money as a starving artist. The rest of us are happy to learn what we can in school, learn even more in our off time, go to college, and get a good-paying job we enjoy. If you ever expected public education to inspire creativity, or do anything creative at all, then the fault is yours
              • by cayenne8 (626475)
                "If you're so concerned about not being "a slave to business" which I assume is code for "working for a company", then you're free to not pay attention in class, skip school, not go to college, and spend your life begging for money as a starving artist. The rest of us are happy to learn what we can in school, learn even more in our off time, go to college, and get a good-paying job we enjoy."

                That's not the only 2 choices you know.

                Many of us form our own companies!! Either for external business (face to g

        • by DeadChobi (740395)
          There's no one person who can be blamed for that. It's the institution itself that's broken. The reason the teachers have to be the way they are is because they're legally responsible for each and every one of you from the moment you set foot inside the school until you're a mile or so down the road. First amendment rights are different though, and the GP and the punks should have stuck up for their rights. I agree with you about the rules. Some of them are pretty retarded.

          As for control, parents need to le
    • Re:School Censorship (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <`Satanicpuppy' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:40AM (#18121980) Journal
      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 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by russ1337 (938915) on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:53AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by darkstar949 (697933)
          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 y
        • by HTH NE1 (675604)

          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.
        • by tinkertim (918832) * on Friday February 23, 2007 @11:16AM (#18123536) Homepage

          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 think schools are getting increasingly frustrated by a lack of parenting. I think parents are getting frustrated with economic circumstances that cause a lack of parenting, and I think kids are getting increasingly frustrated with the whole mess, especially kids from grade 8 onward.

          Some schools are falling into a nasty triage. Assess quickly those who can adapt and excel, and figure out how to keep the rest of the kids from preventing 'hopefuls' from succeeding. I hate this condition but understand it.

          Schools are divided into districts. Where you live in play is a very, very good indicator of what school you attend, unless of course you attend a private school. This means, no matter where you are, you *do* represent the school as once you and I represented a product of our parent's parenting.

          This can and in some cases does give the school authority to monitor off campus activity and intercede [slashdot.org] if they feel they must be proactive to accomplish their goal of maintaining what little grip they have over not only the educational process, but raising other people's kids.

          I don't, at all agree with this practice - but a solution to the problem is rather hard to come up with. My daughter was born Abroad, where we still reside. My immediate solution is to be present, parent her, and not put her in US public schools when the time comes. But that's only *my* solution and I realize that I have a responsibility as a citizen and parent to help come up with a more proactive and broader solution.

          Some of the problems :

          * Suggestions fall on deaf, jaded ears.
          * There is not enough money.
          * You are almost never successful telling other parents they can or should be doing a better job.
          * Unemployment is growing.
          * Teen culture is becoming increasingly violent as media and lack of parenting de-sensitizes them further.
          * Reclusive, anti social anti empathic behavior is celebrated by media (ever see a reality show?).

          I am only naming a few.

          We're treating the problem in the typical western style, symptomatically - instead of as a whole broadly because the resources available to solve the issues aren't being focused and concentrated. We're nit-picking and nibbling around the edges of something that is growing bigger and bigger with every school day.

          Its very difficult to change someone's thinking. Its very difficult for parents to examine everything they should be doing differently as the guilt you feel knowing you are screwing up your kid is inedible to say the least. Coming from outside of the home, such a suggestion often drives people to violence against whoever suggested it. At the least, again, deaf jaded ears.

          So, how do you make being a good parent popular culture? How do you make credit card companies and banks holding otherwise effective parents at bay under a financial thumb decide that the functionality of the next few generations should userp their desire for profit? How do you convince an idiot in Washington that what he wasted on Iraq was 100x more than what would be needed to at least (start) fixing the problem?

          Most importantly, how do you get people SCREAMING the same questions I just asked?

          Please research those things, instead of case law. Human social networks are just like any other small world network [wikipedia.org], we are quite capible of distributed problem solving and should be employing it, especially where our children are concerned.

          Please don't mistake my reply as antagonistic, it was not my intention to seem hostile.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by size8 (1067704)
        Concerning whether this will contravene the First Amendment. I'm from the UK, so have very little knowledge of US Constitutional matters. So maybe someone can tell me: in the USA, can't an organization say that if you want to join the organization, you must give up some rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution? For example, if you want to join the size8 society, the society rules state basically that you must give up the right to free speech - "You can't say size8 seems nasty, you must constantly
        • by Agripa (139780)
          There is statutory law at both the state and federal level that protects certain civil rights from private party infringement but the application of constitutional rights to common law is more nebulous. A good example are the statutory protections against discrimination by race or sex.

          The law blog "The Volokh Conspiracy" has a recent discussion on a court case involving an employer, United Parcel Service, firing an employee for having a firearm stored in his car which was not on company property:

          http://vol [volokh.com]
        • by Altus (1034)

          For the most part, in America, towns only have one school... some have less than one (a large geographic area might have a single high school for a bunch of towns if the population density is low enough). Even in larger towns, where you live determines which school you go to. There are ways to switch schools and different states/districts have different rules, but generally speaking you at least have to jump through hoops to send your kids to a different high school unless you go with private schooling.

          Ho
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cayenne8 (626475)
          "in the USA, can't an organization say that if you want to join the organization, you must give up some rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution? For example, if you want to join the size8 society, the society rules state basically that you must give up the right to free speech - "You can't say size8 seems nasty, you must constantly state that size8 is akin to a god on earth". And if you don't like the idea of your freedom of speech being taken away in society business, then hey, don't join the societ
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Paulrothrock (685079)

      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 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Alchemar (720449) on Friday February 23, 2007 @10:04AM (#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 ge
      • by tourvil (103765) on Friday February 23, 2007 @11:15AM (#18123516)
        What state do you live in so that I know never to move there?
      • by Bryansix (761547)
        It sounds like the administration in the school district you are in have gone off the deep end.
      • by dr_dank (472072)
        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.

        Great, so the single parent struggling to put food on the table can choose between missing work and getting fired, or missing a demand appearance at school and being slapped with a fine and a conviction.

        Some choice.
      • I volunteered to help with a Black Family Technology Awareness Week thing at a public school, showing city kids and their families computers, trying to get them interested.

        I had naturally read endless horror stories about American schools. I was somewhat surprised when I turned up and found that there were no metal detectors I had to walk through. There was no bullet proof glass on the doors. I wasn't asked to hand over federal ID or submit to an anal probe. They didn't require a lengthy background check.

        So
    • by bigdavex (155746)

      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 proba

    • by PhxBlue (562201) on Friday February 23, 2007 @10:19AM (#18122556) Homepage Journal

      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.

    • by cayenne8 (626475)
      But, all the examples you gave...were physical things ON school property. Yes, they can control things that might be disruptive to the school like publications, tshirts...heck, hairstyles.

      But, in your example, a teacher that saw you on Saturday, on a street not at school, could not come over and confiscate your underground publication.

      What they're talking about here...is the schools reach for 'censorship' not only being things on school property, but, on private websites run off campus by students on thei

    • by gsslay (807818)
      What are we doing to stop this blatant restriction on teenagers' rights to have sweary words on their clothing, and to bitch about, well, just about everyone, and rebel against, erm, everything? One thing's for sure; they didn't ask to be born!

      It's just so unfair!
  • 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.
    • 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.
      • by mikael (484)
        Or you could always pin a message up on the school noticeboard.
  • Not for the courts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubjames (468013) on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:24AM (#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.
    • 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?
    • Well, as long as the bullies don't plan to go to Canada within the next 200 years, it should pose no problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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: (Score:3, Funny)

        by tomstdenis (446163)
        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.

        AND YES, I WANT IT TOASTED!!!

        Tom
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Paulrothrock (685079)

          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 c

          • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@@@gmail...com> on Friday February 23, 2007 @10:05AM (#18122346) Homepage
            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 :-)

            Tom
      • by pubjames (468013)
        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 w
    • 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.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nkv (604544)
      I don't think you should stop at bullying. This whole "free speech" thing is getting out of hand. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for it but if you grant something like that to a bunch of immature, irresponsible people, you're going to get into a mess. It's fun to stir up some controversy and then go to court to settle it while overlooking whether it was the humanly decent thing to do but that sort of thing will kill "society" faster than suppression of free speech and turn it into a dog eat dog jungle where th
  • What's the issue? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by koreaman (835838) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:25AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pzs (857406) on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:25AM (#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.

    Peter
  • 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 peo
    • 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.
      • 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.
  • 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.
  • by blueZhift (652272) on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:32AM (#18121874) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by PhxBlue (562201)

      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? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:36AM (#18121934) Journal
    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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Torvaun (1040898)
      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 da
      • No, kids from the age of 4-5 do have a basic grasp if pain and hurting others. Once you realize being hit hurts and hitting others hurts you have the basic concept nicely down.

        No, not "in my case" in all cases. It is not a "natural" thing, it is infact abuse allowed because "they are kids". You cannot say "oh he deserved it for picking his nose" and then "oh he didn't deserve it, he's just smart". You either condone 100% abuse or you don't, it is THAT simple.
    • Re:Bullying? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Undertaker43017 (586306) on Friday February 23, 2007 @10:52AM (#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".
      • by metamatic (202216)

        Removing the bully from the learning environment is not the right solution, that just creates more criminals.

        The bullies I knew were already small time criminals, shoplifting and stealing bikes. I say jail the fuckers.

        • Either way you pay for them. At least paying to try and make them a productive member of society has the potential benefit of them giving back to society in some beneficial way.

          Most of the bullies I knew where small time criminals as well, but most of them were that way because they had no influence in the lives showing them a different direction. It usually wasn't hard to figure out how they got they way they were, once you meet their parents...
    • by CDarklock (869868)
      > Would you let another adult verbally torture someone?

      It's called a "job interview". Here's a real world example from a recent interview I had.

      1. You have five minutes to write a test plan for this large web site.
      2. You have five minutes to tell me where this landscape photograph was taken.
      3. You have five minutes to write a trouble ticket for this system boot failure.
      4. You have twenty-five minutes to build a dynamic web site attached to this database.

      None of the above is in any way related to the actu
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Asic Eng (193332)
      What is it with the US and double-speak these days? Words have meaning, why do they need to be re-defined until they become empty shells?

      Bullying can include torture. Verbal abuse is just that: verbal abuse, and it's not torture. The next thing is that children are by defintion not adults. If there are seperate laws for children and for adults, then children can never ever be convicted as adults.

      On the prison thing - this is the typical knee-jerk "law and order" approach. The US has an absurd number of a

  • 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 l
  • 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 hairst
  • by DoctorPepper (92269) on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:45AM (#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.
    • 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: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by duflar (1066896)
        "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
    • 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

  • Bill of Rights (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hsmith (818216) on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:47AM (#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.
  • by sesquipedalian_one (639698) on Friday February 23, 2007 @09:49AM (#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.
    • Is sexual harassment licensed by free speech?

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

  • 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.
  • by FudRucker (866063) on Friday February 23, 2007 @10:01AM (#18122280)
    along with freedom of speech comes being responsible with what an individual says, why do people forget this simple rule...
  • 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 ma
  • by bcharr2 (1046322) on Friday February 23, 2007 @10:11AM (#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.
  • by TheWoozle (984500) on Friday February 23, 2007 @10:14AM (#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.
  • Free Speech? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ogive17 (691899) on Friday February 23, 2007 @10:15AM (#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.
  • 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.

    Tha
  • 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 classr
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Big_Al_B (743369)
      I too have a father who taught middle/junior and highschool mathematics for over 40 years until recently retiring. I had him for a teacher at one point and watching him work was amazing to me. By everyone's account he was an outstanding teacher. At reunions I have had both our class valedictorian and our class "discipline case" both seek me out to find out how my father is doing, and to tell me he was the best teacher they had.

      So maybe that colors my perspective a bit. But, based on observing my dad an
      • Homeschooling (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dan Slotman (974474)

        And, frankly, I do wonder why you're homeschooling your kids. You can't convince me that they are getting the education they need and deserve. Sorry.

        I think both your post and the parent's post are excellent. I have one tiny quibble though. Homeschooling is a superb way to educate in a "reading, writing, and arithmetic" sense. However, it is very poor at teaching interpersonal skills, teamwork, and empathy. Homeschooling enables a child to learn to the upper limits of his or her ability, limited only

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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
  • The arstechnica article reports that, according to "Fight Crime: Invest in Kids," one out of every three teenagers is the target of cyberbullying. I found this figure so implausible that I had to track down the source, which is a survey conducted on behalf of that organization by Opinion Research Corporation. Here's the actual question [fightcrime.org] which I suspect is the basis for this "one in three" claim:

    In the past year, how many times have any mean, threatening or embarrassing things been said about you or to you
  • Targeted harassment, even if not directly threatening, is already illegal. The only thing that this law could cover, that others do not, is general "bad-mouthing." The problem is, talking bad about someone is acceptable in some cases and not acceptable in others. I have a feeling that, if enacted, this is going to turn into another zero-tolerance-type mess where good kids are going to end up with criminal records even though they didn't do anything wrong.
    • by AxemRed (755470)
      Here's how "harassment" is defined by Indiana's law:

      "Harassment" means conduct directed toward a victim that includes but is not limited to repeated or continuing impermissible contact that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress and that actually causes the victim to suffer emotional distress. Harassment does not include statutorily or constitutionally protected activity, such as lawful picketing pursuant to labor disputes or lawful employer-related activities pursuant to labor disp

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