Cyberbullying Legislation in California

A couple months ago Linda Braun blogged about the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives in May.’  Now, California appears to be following suit.’  Assemblyman Ted Lieu from Torrance has introduced an amendment that would allow school officials to punish students that use electronic devices to harass fellow students.

The amendment is framed in terms of student safety, and considers cyberbullying to be behavior that would disrupt the “safe, secure and peaceful” school environment to which students are entitled.’  Specifically, the amendment would let school officials “suspend a pupil or recommend a pupil for expulsion for bullying, including, but not limited to, bullying by an electronic act.”‘  Bullying is defined in this measure as:

    “…one or more acts by a pupil or a group of pupils directed against another pupil that constitutes sexual harassment, hate violence, or severe pervasive intentional harassment, threats or intimidation that is disruptive, causes disorder, and invades the rights of others by creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment…”

The full text of the amendment is available.

It will be interesting to observe the implementation of the this measure should the Senate and Governor Schwarzenegger approve it.’  Cyberbullying doesn’t necessarily leave behind physical evidence of abuse or injury the way physical bullying does, possibly making it difficult to prove that it’s even happening.’  In addition, the anonymous nature of online interactions may make it difficult to identify the culprits.’  A recent article in the New York Times Magazine illustrates just how much online harassment people can get away with, profiling online trolls who have managed to maintain their anonymity despite having perpetrated long-term, high-profile attacks against random strangers.

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One Comment

  1. I still think this isn’t something that can be legislated. Bullying is a behavior that adults need to “handle” when it comes to the children and teens with whom they live and work. Is this the government’s responsibility or ability? Can’t schools punish bullies – cyber or physical – without state or federal legislation giving them permission to do so?

    On the topic of the NY Times trolls story, there has been some conversation on blogs and podcasts about whether or not the Times was hyping something that isn’t really an issue. While there have always been “trolls” in electronic environments, the way they were presented in the NYT might not be accurate.

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