Civil Libertarians Question Some Anti-Internet Bullying Laws


More state legislators are draft bills giving schools more power to do something about bullying over the Internet, reports USA Today. At least seven states, including Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oregon, passed cyberbullying laws last year. Five more – Maryland, Missouri, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont – are considering similar legislation this year. Most of the laws are confined to the use of school computers or networks. Others, such as those in Arkansas and Delaware, call for education officials to take action against off-campus bullying that disrupts their schools.

In New Jersey, some school districts are considering policies that assert their authority outside of school. Such policies are raising concerns, both about infringing on freedom of speech and about intruding into students’ private lives. “The lines between home and school are continuing to blur with more expectations for schools to exercise authority in areas previously reserved for parents,” said Max Riley, superintendent of the Randolph School District in New Jersey. The American Civil Liberties Union opposes some cyberbullying laws, saying they set up school officials to trample on students’ First Amendment rights. The ACLU helped block a proposal last year to expand an Oregon law to include off-campus bullying, arguing that school officials have no right to impose punishment on students for what they do away from school.


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