NJ Cyberbullying Probes Up 50%; Where is the Line Between Gossip and Crime?


The Philadelphia Inquirer says cyberbullying was the focus of a daylong conference yesterday at Rutgers University in Newark, where lawyers, scholars, educators, and others discussed the difficulties of drawing a legal line that determines if schools — or parents — are culpable. Enacted in 2011, New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights states that schools must investigate incidents of online bullying if they disrupt or disturb the educational environment. In the first year of the law, more than 12,000 reported cases of bullying were investigated — a 50 percent increase from the year before — with more than 1,000 taking place via smartphone, computer, or other electronic device. It isn't always easy to make a direct connection between a Facebook posting or an insulting text and what happens in schools, according to state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, who said the state continues to grapple with how to define cyberbullying. “When you go to the realm of gossip [ ] then I am lost,” Chiesa said. “Where is the line to where government has a role when certain kinds of behaviors should be penalized?” One of the most vexing legal questions raised by New Jersey's two-year-old anti-bullying law remains how to address incidents that occur online and off school grounds including nights and weekends.

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