Cyberbullying Prevention Law – An ADL Model Statute
Posted: May 20, 2009
A strong definition of bullying is necessary in any bullying prevention law. The definition will notify school administrators, students, and teachers exactly what is unacceptable. The definition should not be overbroad, or vague – it must not punish constitutionally protected speech.
"Electronic communications" must be included in any definition of bullying.
With increasing access to online technology, the Internet has become yet another vehicle to harass and bully. Cyberbullying may be more harmful than traditional bullying because of the invasive and pervasive nature of the communication: Messages are circulated far and wide and there is no refuge -- it is ubiquitous.
Enumerated characteristics must be included in any definition of bullying.
Naming certain categories provides clear guidance to those who must apply the standard and will remove all doubt that particular identity-based harassment can be bullying and is unacceptable.
Model bill language:
(a) As used in this Act, "harassment, intimidation, bullying or cyberbullying" means any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication including, but not limited to, one shown to be motivated by a student's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry or ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical, mental, emotional, or learning disability, gender, gender identity and expression, or other distinguishing personal characteristic, or based on association with any person identified above, when the written, verbal or physical act or electronic communication is intended to:
(i) Physically harm a student or damages the student's property; or
(ii) Substantially interfere with a student's educational opportunities; or
(iii) Be so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment; or
(iv) Substantially disrupt the orderly operation of the school.
(b) As used in this Section, "electronic communication" means any communication through an electronic device including but not limited to a telephone, cellular phone, computer or pager, which communication includes but is not limited to E-Mail, instant messaging, text messages, blogs, mobile phones, pagers, online games, and Web sites.