After trying to shield students from online bullying by peers, schools cracking down on Internet postings that disparage teachers, reports the Wall Street Journal. Some schools punish the occasional tweeter who insults a teacher, but North Carolina has made it a crime for students to post statements via the Internet that “intimidate or torment” faculty. Those convicted would be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to fines of as much as $1,000 and/or probation. The move is one of the most aggressive by states to police students’ online activities.
While officials have had the ability to regulate student speech at school, the threat of cyberbullying teachers, typically off-campus, has prompted efforts to restrain students’ use of the Internet on their own time. School officials say the moves are necessary to protect teachers in an age when comments posted online—sometimes by students pretending to be the teachers they are mocking—can spread quickly and damage reputations. North Carolina makes it a crime for a student to “build a fake profile or web site” with the “intent to intimidate or torment a school employee.” Critics argue the law risks trampling on venting and other less inflammatory forms of expression. “Our concern is that we don’t throw the First Amendment out the window in our haste to get the kid who is calling the principal bad names on Facebook,” said Frank LoMonte of the Virginia-based Student Press Law Center.