Dear Colleague Letter on Harassment and Bullying, U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights
Most states have laws regarding bullying, some of which mention electronic forms of bullying. Only a small number of states have specific cyber bullying statutes that include definitions of cyber bullying.
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Anti-harassment statute (ALASKA STAT. § 11.61.120) includes electronic means of harassment that threaten the physical well-being of another person. House Bill 127, signed into law June 24, 2011, also makes it a crime to harass minors by forwarding or posting revealing pictures.
HB 1072 requires local school boards to adopt policies to prevent bullying, including electronic, that shall apply to acts taken place on or off school grounds and personal or with school equipment.
AB 86, passed January 1, 2009, gives schools authority to suspend or expel student who engage in cyber bullying. Districts are required to develop policy to detect and punish incidents of cyber bullying. Penal Code section 528.5, effective Jan. 1, 2011, makes it a crime to create fake Facebook or e-mail accounts ("e-personation") for the purpose of bullying someone.
2002 Connecticut Public Act 2-119, SHB 5425; Statutes § 10-222d; defines a policy that leaves bullying definitions vague. Public Act 11-232, signed July 13, 2011, expands policies to prevent bullying, including prohibiting online speech that "causes physical or emotional harm" to another student.
“Jeffrey Johnson Stand Up for All Students Act” of 2008 prohibits bullying and harassment of any public K-12 student or employee using school technology resources on or off school campus. Districts must develop a code of conduct and policy to identify incidents of bullying, determine incident location, notify parents, notify legal and/or counseling professionals as needed. A monitoring system for reporting bullying is also part of FS 1006.147.
SB 250, passed in 2010, updates Georgia’s anti-bullying protections, but still defines electronic bullying as only those bullying acts using computers and technology "of a local school system."
2011 legislation requires the state Department of Education to adopt rules prohibiting bullying and cyberbullying, requiring confidential reporting, and establishing procedures for determining consequences.
105 ILCS 135/1-2 (2008) defines cyberbullying and includes a provision that violation will result in a class B misdemeanor. As per H.B. 6391, beginning with the 2010‐2011 school year, districts must include in the age appropriate curriculum topics including sexually explicit images/videos. Penalties for violation are up to the school.
Legislation enforces anti-cyber-bullying policies to have jurisdiction over bullying cases “in schools, on school property or at any school function or school-sponsored activity.” Iowa’s School Anti-bullying and Anti-Harassment Act of 2007 defines bullying/harassment (including electronic acts) stating that consequences are enacted by schools. State harassment law, IC § 708.7, allows prosecution of cyber bullying.
HB 2758 of 2008 defines cyber bullying and requires district policies to address it, including use of school property off campus. Stalking law K.S.A. §21-3438 can be used to prosecute instances of cyber bullying.
As of June 8, 2010, legislation outlawing “sexting” as a crime for any adolescent under the age of 17 would be punished with a $100 fine and at least 10 days in jail for possessing or transmitting “an indecent visual depiction.” Recent legislation, HB 1259, was passed in August 2010. It criminalizes cyberbullying and can lead to fines (up to $500) for minors and jail time (up to six months) for adults. Parents of a child who is being cyberbullied can submit a report to the office of juvenile justice.
MD. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 7-424.1 requires the state board to create model policy prohibiting bullying (which includes cyber bullying in the definition). County boards must implement and publicize anti-bullying policies. Additionally laws about the misuse of email and harassment can also be used to prosecute for cyber bullying as a criminal offense.
A new law in 2010 specifies extensive cyber bullying policies. Both private and public schools are required to have intervention and notification plans. School districts need to have mandatory anti-bullying training as well producing an annual report for the state legislature and department of primary and secondary educational schools. The law also requires schools statewide to provide age-appropriate instruction on bullying prevention. The rules and penalties include bullying in the community and online.
Michigan does not have comprehensive anti-bullying or anti-cyberbullying legislation, though several attempts to pass anti-bullying legislation have been made. A June 2010 executive order (No. 2007-46) provides schools with block grants to develop programs, and suggests cyberbullying policies and programs as an option.
An amendment to Minn. Stat. § 121A.0695 now requires that electronic and internet forms of bullying be included in the requirements that each school board adopt a written policy prohibiting intimidation and bullying of any student. School administrators can discipline outside of school bullying if it has a significant connection to school.
The state governor approved Senate Bill 2015 on April 13, 2010. The law requires school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies (which includes cyber bullying) and to educate students, parents, and school employees about the dangers of bullying as well as the school policy. The cyber stalking law and obscene electronic communications law can also be used to prosecute cyber bullying.
Legislation has been toughened since the suicide of Megan Meier—specifically, upgrading harassment via the web from a misdemeanor count to a Class D felony. Legislation, SB 614, to add cyber bullying to the definition of bullying is pending. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 160.261also states that school property harassment/stalking (including online) must be reported to police.
As of 2009, NRS 388 defines Cyber Bullying and requires the Department of Education to prescribe regulations in cyber bullying including training in methods to facilitate positive human relations. Earlier law in 2001 prohibited students and employees from engaging in cyber bullying on the school premises, school-sponsored activity, or school bus. NRS 389.520 (2009) requires that the standards for computer education include prevention of cyber bullying. Cyber bullying can also be treated as a misdemeanor or criminal offense under stalking and harassment laws.
In 2010, the Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act (House Bill 1523) was revised to include cyber bullying in bullying requirements of reporting and prevention. This bill also entails required training for employees and educational programs for the parents and students. In addition, annual reports of bullying offenses would be reported for the state Department of Education.
In response to the suicide of Tyler Clementi at Rutgers University, New Jersey passed the "Bullying Bill of Rights," implementing new rules that took effect on Sept. 1, 2011. The statute also mandates that schools appoint anti-bullying specialists and that districts hire an anti-bullying coordinator. Schools and districts must regularly submit reports to the state Department of Education. The law allows school officials to punish students for conduct outside of schools, including incidents that occur through electronic communications.
State bullying law, N.M. Stat. Ann. § c.6.12.7, includes electronic expression. A bill signed into law on April 4, 2011, requires public schools to have a bullying prevention program by the start of the 2012-13 school year.
Under H.B.A04028, failure to report cyber bullying on school property is a misdemeanor. Education Law 2801 requires each board of education to provide instruction to discourage bullying in schools and have related polices including disciplinary measures. A harassment bill that was signed into law on Sept. 8, 2010, includes protections for students based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
HB 1261, passed in 2009 defines cyber bullying and makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for adults and Class 2 misdemeanor for minors. Also passed in 2009, SB 526 includes electronic communication in the bullying taking place on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event.
Under Code 12.1.17 07 (2009) harassment via phone, in writing or via electronic communication is a Class A misdemeanor. A bill signed in April 2011 requires each school district to adopt a bullying prevention policy before July of 2012 and to provide bullying prevention information to all students in grades K through 12. The definition of "school" will include not just school property, but also buses, bus stops and school-sponsored events, even if they’re not held on public property. The bill also specifically covers cyberbullying.
Ohio’s state anti-bullying laws were signed into law in 2006, requiring schools to implement policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying; the law does not mention cyberbullying or bullying through electronic means.
The 2008 state Statute 70-24-100.3 includes electronic communications under harassment, intimidation, and bullying and does not need to originate at a school or with school equipment. District boards of education are required to adopt bullying policies and cover bullying (including cyber bullying) in health education. Criminal penalties can be applied to cyber bullies under the state telecommunication harassment law.
Legislation expands anti-cyber-bullying laws by including legal actions such as those that “substantially interfere” with the student’s education. OR Rev. Stat. Ann. Sec. 339 requires districts to adopt a cyber bullying policy (separate from bullying) and encourages coordination with stakeholders. Offenses include cyber bullying at school property, school sponsored events, and bus stops. Consequences, reporting, and investigating are required as well as annual district reports to parents. Training programs, prevention, and task forces are recommended. Finally, cyber bullies can be criminally punished under the harassment law.
H.B. 1067, 2008 requires school systems to develop policies prohibiting bullying (which includes electronic means as defined in the law and may be outside of the school setting) with disciplinary consequences to be reviewed every 3 years. Prevention, education, and intervention programs may also be included. Harassment law can be used to criminally penalize cyber bullies.
The Safe Schools Act, signed into law on June 30, 2011, requires the state Department of Education to develop an anti-bullying policy that must be adopted by all school districts by June 30, 2012. The new policy covers cyberbullying—prohibiting texting or e-mailing bullying messages and images, creating a Web page or blog in the name of another student, and impersonating someone on the Internet.
The Safe School Climate Act of 2006 requires school districts to form cyber bullying policies (using state model policy) to prevent, prohibit, remediate, and punish offenders. The law requires reporting by school employees and encourages employee and parent education. Unlawful communication law and harassment laws can be used to criminally penalize cyber bullies.
The 2009 TN Code Ann. §39-17-308 includes electronic communication, electronic mail, and internet services under harassment which can result in a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. An Internet harassment law passed in 2011 applies to cyberbullying: The law makes it a criminal offense if someone "communicates with another person or transmits or displays an image with the malicious intent to frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress."
Cyber bullying is defined in State Board of Education Policy R277-613-1 (2009) and requires policies prohibiting bullying and hazing consistent with Code 53A-11a-301 (2008). State electronic communication law can be applied to cyber bullying and result in Class A or Class B misdemeanor. On March 22, 2011, the passage of Senate Bill 304 added cyberbullying and hazing to an existing bullying prevention policy.
The Board of education is required to develop anti-bullying (including electronic forms) policies under VA. Code Stat. § 22.1-279.6. The computer harassment law directly relates to cyber bullying as a Class 1 misdemeanor. As of July 1, 2011, using a cell phone to send a malicious text message with "profane, threatening or indecent language" is also considered a Class 1 misdemeanor.
In 2007, electronic harassment was added to school bullying policies. Substitute House Bill 2801, passed in 2010, requires school districts to adopt (by August, 2011) a revised anti-bullying policy and designate primary district contact to process bullying complaints. School districts must report their progress to the Superintendent of Public Instruction by August 15, 2011. Districts must create and maintain a bullying and harassment public website with revised policies, rules, and regulations on it. Cyberb stalking law can be used to criminally penalize cyber bullies.
A law passed in April 2011 expands the definition of bullying to include any means of electronics used to communicate harassing messages. The law allows schools to deal only with messages sent during school or on school buses, but bullying that occurs after school may be addressed under the statute if the bullying also occurs during the school day.
In lieu of specific school cyber bullying laws, the Unlawful Use of Computerized Communication Systems law (Wis. Stat. Ann. Sec. 947.0125) which criminalizes intentional intimidation, threats, or abuse via electronic communication can be used to prosecute cyber bullies.
Bullying law (W.S.A. § 21-4-311 through 21-4-315) passed in 2009 includes and requires school districts to adopt policies to include: a reporting scheme, consequences, "no reprisal", prompt investigation procedures, and a strategy to prevent recurrence. Districts have to involve stakeholders in policy creation. Stalking law can be used to prosecute cyber bullies. H.B.0223 Safe School Climate Act includes electronically transmitted bullying.
(Updated September 2011)