Cyber bullying targeted in bill

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January 19th, 2011

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Lincoln, NE – School bullying has made its way to the internet in recent years, and it’s prompted State Sen. Lavon Heidemann to introduce a bill that would allow students to be disciplined for so-called “cyber-bullying”.  The bill was discussed in a public hearing Tuesday at the capitol.

It’s not only students who are victims of cyber bullying.  Debra Kubik has been a teacher since 2000 and changed school districts last year.  In her new district she was the target of cyber bullying.

A Nebraska City high school teacher testified she was "cyber-bullied on Facebook"

“During my first and only year of teaching at Nebraska City High School,” she testified, “I became one of three female teachers targeted, specifically by three male students who created a Facebook group with the intent to cause mental and physical harm.  Since I did not reside in the community, I resided 20 miles away, my only association with these students was in the school system.”

The bill defines cyber bullying as any form of electronic communication, on or off the school grounds, with the intent of causing harm or serious emotional distress to students or school personnel.

Nobody showed up to oppose the bill, but ACLU legal director Amy Miller testified neutrally.  She said the ACLU supports putting a stop to cyber bullying, but said the bill goes too far in attempting to reach outside school grounds.  She said there are two cases where Congress tried to protect students, but the federal mandates were struck down because they impacted first amendment free speech rights.

“In order to have LB 123 pass constitutional muster,” she said, “there does have to be a narrowing of impact in order to make sure it does not go too far, while still protecting students being bullied.”

“You don’t ever want to hand over to schools’ (the) responsibility,” she said. “I don’t think they want the responsibility, or requirement that they do something about it, to monitor the behavior of students …off of school grounds.  There has to be a linkage to students’ behavior and the school classroom environment.”

The committee still has to decide whether or not to advance the bill to the full legislature.

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