Can Police Be Expected To Handle “Cyber Bullying”?


Someone is using the Internet to tease and humiliate the 16-year-old daughter of Liza Leon of McCandless, Pennsylvania, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “They put up a phony Web site for her on MySpace,” said Ms. Leon. “I think it’s people who know her, because some of it is true and some of it is making fun of her.” She recently the bogus Web site to administrators at North Allegheny High School, which her daughter attends, but they advised her to contact the police. So far, police haven’t been much help in finding the culprits.

Cyber bullying has become a growing concern in schools as more students gain access to the Internet and other mobile communication devices that can be used for harassment and threats. School officials must weigh how far they can go in controlling student online conduct while at the same time respecting First Amendment rights. “That is the province of parents, not school administrators,” said Witold Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union. Dr. Robert Paserba, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said, “Sometimes if something is in bad taste, we’ve asked that it be removed from the Internet and persons have been cooperative with that. We’ve not found anything so far that rose to the level of police involvement.” Police did, charge a 14-year-old Swissvale, Pa., boy in May with using the Internet to bad-mouth a fellow middle school pupil.


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