Summary of US Cyberbullying Laws

May 8, 2014

CyberbullyingIt is no surprise that state lawmakers are including cyberbullying in their anti-bullying laws. There is no shortage of tragic news stories where online bullying was alleged to be a contributing factor in a suicide (see, for example, Florida girls charged with a felony in cyberbullying death, online hoax led to teenage girl’s suicide, bullied Canadian teen commits suicide after prolonged battle online and in school). It only takes seconds for a text message, email, or post on social media to reach a potentially unlimited audience.  In response to some of these tragic events, states have begun updating their anti-bullying laws. States differ, however, in how they approach cyberbullying.

Every state except Montana already has some form of antibullying statute, and in 48 states, these statutes already include electronic harassment. Twenty-one states now include the term cyberbullying in their anti-bullying statutes, and 12 states include behavior that occurs off school campus. The Cyberbullying Research Center keeps a fairly up-to-date and comprehensive chart showing what each state provides in its antibullying statutes, including several states that provide criminal sanctions. Listed below are links to current laws that use the term cyberbullying.

Constitutional issues with cyberbullying laws

While adding cyberbullying to antibullying statutes addresses one issue, it may raise another. Some opponents of cyberbullying laws have concerns that the laws will impermissibly restrict First Amendment Free Speech rights, especially when the conduct occurs off campus. Cases addressing free speech by students provide that although students do have free-speech rights, students do not have the right to interfere with or disrupt school discipline or activities and rights of other students to be secure. See Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969), which first provided this limitation. See also Nixon v. Hardin County Board of Education, 2013 WL 6843087 (W.D. Tenn.), for a discussion of recent cases addressing student free speech, in particular cases involving off-campus online speech. In Nixon, a middle school student sued the school for violation of her rights after she was disciplined for off-campus threats on a social media site that were directed at another student. The court denied the school’s motion for summary judgment on the First Amendment claims, finding there were still fact issues as to whether the actions substantially disrupted school activities. Stay tuned.

For a more in-depth look at the recently enacted Minnesota cyberbullying law (effective July 1, 2014), click here.

Legislative Summary

Enacted legislation that includes “cyberbullying” in US states and territories

Arkansas

A.C.A. § 5-71-217 Cyberbullying

Connecticut

C.G.S.A. § 10-222j Training re prevention, identification and response to school bullying and youth suicide

Delaware

14 Del.C. § 4112D School bullying prevention

Florida

West’s F.S.A. § 1006.147 Bullying and harassment prohibited

Guam

17 G.C.A. § 3112.1 Policy Against Bullying

Kansas

K.S.A. 72-8256 Bullying, school district policies

Louisiana

LSA-R.S. 14:40.7 Cyberbullying

Maine

20-A M.R.S.A. § 6554 Prohibition on bullying in public schools

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. 71 § 37O School bullying prohibited; bullying prevention plans

Minnesota

M.S.A. § 121A.031 School student bullying policy

Missouri

V.A.M.S. 160.775 Anti-bullying policy required–definition–requirements

Nevada

N.R.S. 388.123 “Cyber-bullying” defined

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. § 193-F:4 Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention

New Mexico

N. M. S. A. 1978, § 22-2-21 Bullying and cyberbullying prevention programs

New York

McKinney’s Education Law § 13 Dignity for All Students: Policies and guidelines

North Carolina

N.C.G.S.A. § 14-458.2 Cyber-bullying of school employee by student; penalty

Oregon

O.R.S. § 339.356 Mandatory policy on harassment, intimidation and bullying

Tennessee

T. C. A. § 49-6-4503 School district policies

Texas

V.T.C.A., Education Code § 37.218 Programs on Dangers of Students Sharing Visual Material Depicting Minor Engaged in Sexual Conduct

Utah

U.C.A. 1953 § 53A-11a-301 Bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, hazing, and retaliation policy

Virginia

VA Code Ann. § 22.1-276.01 Pupils; Discipline; Definitions

Washington

West’s RCWA 28A.300.285 Harassment, intimidation, and bullying prevention policies and procedures–Model policy and procedure–Training materials–Posting on web site–Rules–Advisory committee