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A decision was handed down in a federal district court in California 
that is going to present significant problems for schools in responding 
to cyberbullying or sexting.,0,6677934.story?page=1

For students, a right to be mean online?
With schools meting out discipline for what they see as cyber-bullying, 
some courts, parents and free speech advocates are pushing back.

"To allow the school to cast this wide a net and suspend a student 
simply because another student takes offense to their speech, without 
any evidence that such speech caused a substantial disruption of the 
school's activities, runs afoul" of the law, U.S. District Judge Stephen 
V. Wilson wrote in a 60-page opinion.

"The court cannot uphold school discipline of student speech simply 
because young persons are unpredictable or immature, or because, in 
general, teenagers are emotionally fragile and may often fight over 
hurtful comments," he wrote.

Here is the fact situation:

One morning in May 2008, an eighth-grader walked into Janice Hart's 
office at a Beverly Hills school crying.

She was upset and humiliated and couldn't possibly go to class, the girl 
told the counselor. The night before, a classmate had posted a video on 
YouTube with a group of other eighth-graders bad-mouthing her, calling 
her "spoiled," a "brat" and a "slut." Text and instant messages had been 
flying since. Half the class must have seen it by now, she told Hart.

This is a horrendous decision. One that I hope and expect will be 
overturned on appeal. But in the meantime, I am pretty sure the school 
insurance companies and school attorneys will be advising principals not 
to suspend students for off-campus cyberbullying. I am not a fan of 
suspension to resolve bullying situations, but many administrators are 
just going to take the perspective that there is nothing they can do.

I still think there are things they can do - and am working on an 
analysis of the case to set this forth. But it is a very bad decision.


Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D.
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online 
Social Aggression, Threats, and Distress (Research Press) 

Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use 
the Internet Safely and Responsibly (Jossey-Bass)

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