Cyber-bullying law gets mixed reviews

Dec. 05, 2012 @ 06:36 PM

A few sections of the 2012 School Violence Prevention Act went into effect over the weekend, including a section relating to "cyberbullying" of teachers by their students. 

The new law makes the offense a class two misdemeanor. The maxmimum punishment for a class two misdemeanor is 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. 

The new law outlaws students building fake profiles or websites; posting private, personal or sexual information about school employees; posting real or doctored images of a school employee on the internet; using a computer for "repeated, continuing or sustained" election communications, including e-mail; signing a school employee for electronic mailing lists or pornographic websites; make statements intended to provoke any third party to stalk or harass a school employee and other "cyberbullying" activities.

Union County Public Schools works with local law enforcement to investigate all matters, Jarrod McCraw, safety and security director, said. 

"If something happens, we would work with (local law enforcement) as we have in the past, to make sure that it is investigated," McCraw said. "We're going to support our staff members." 

"It has not been a huge issue, but we have had instances where social networking has been used against teachers," McCraw said. 

The North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union is concerned that the law is too vague and could restrict free speech in the schools. 

“This law is so vague that it could easily result in a student being arrested simply for posting something on the Internet that a school official finds offensive,” ACLU-NC Policy Director Sarah Preston said in a statement. “Young people should not be taught that they will be punished for telling the truth, speaking freely, or questioning authority – yet that is exactly what could happen under this law. If it is okay to criminalize students who criticize teachers online, what is to stop the government from making it illegal for any one of us to criticize some other government official, like the city council or state legislature, whether the comments are made online or not? We urge any student charged under this misguided law to contact our office immediately.”

McCraw could not speak to the group's concerns. However, he said the new law was helpful because there are consequences for cyberbullying staff members. 

"On our end, it is helpful because it gives us the ability to contact law enforcement," McCraw said.