Legal Ramifications of Technobullying
While it is true that the law has not caught up to the times regarding technobullying, perpetrators should be warned that technobullying is a serious issue and is generally prosecuted according to local authorities. School districts are responding to acts of technobullying on school grounds by following codes of conduct that include suspension and expulsion. While schools are typically the first line of defense regarding technobullying, the law is also making strides in combating technobullying behaviors.
At the Federal Level:
The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, Bill H.R. 1966, although pending, states that: Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
In New York:
Bill H.B.A04028: Established a class B misdemeanor of failure to report hazing; prohibits bullying or cyberbullying on school property; requires instruction to discourage bullying in schools and policies for schools to be enacted.
The Dignity for All Students Act: Schools need to revise their codes of conduct and adopt policies intended to create a school environment free from harassment and discrimination; adopt guidelines to be used in school training programs to raise awareness and sensitivity of school employees to these issues and to enable them to respond appropriately; and designate at least one staff member in each school to be trained in non-discriminatory instructional and counseling methods and handling human relations.
Commissioner’s Regulation 100.2 (I): Requires each board of education to adopt and enforce a code of conduct, which includes disciplinary measures to be taken in incidents involving the use of physical force or harassment.
Education Law 2801-a: Requires school safety plans to contain strategies for improving communication among students and between students and staff and reporting of potentially violent incidents, such as creating a forum or designating a mentor for students concerned with bullying or violence and establishing anonymous reporting mechanisms for school violence.
Information regarding technobullying legislation in other states can be found through the Cyberbullying Research Center, at www.cyberbullying.us.
The following behaviors of a technobully can be considered criminal misdemeanors in all states:
- Hate/Bias Motivated Acts
- Invasion of Privacy
- Defamation of Character
- Infliction of Emotional Distress
In regards to sexting, youth under 18 should be warned that sending naked images from their phone is the distribution of child pornography. Distributing child pornography is a felony, and most offenders need to subsequently register as sex offenders.