Taking the Fight Against Cyber-Bullies Outside The School House Gate

Michael Telfer, Editing Chair, Albany Government Law Review Member

With the widespread use of the Internet in the last decade and the creation of websites such as Facebook and YouTube, the ability for people to connect with one another across the globe and with people they have lost touch with has been enthusiastically welcomed.  With the great benefits that new technology brings, also comes the ability for people to use it to the detriment of others.

Bullying has existed “as long as schools have,” but today bullying is no longer confined to the school house gates or even prevented at one’s front door, as it can “follow students to their rooms . . . their cell phones[,] or online.”[1] Through cyber-bullying, bullies can now “harass, threaten or intimidate others” by “e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, chat rooms, pagers, cell phones, and gaming systems.”[2] Specifically, bullies engage in cyber-bullying by videotaping their peers with their cell phones and posting embarrassing videos online through YouTube, creating fake Facebook profiles to steal the identify of other students,[3] and posting embarrassing comments on Facebook to humiliate other students.[4] Reports of students who have been victims of cyber-bullying have become nationwide news stories, such as the suicide of a freshman at Rutgers University in New Jersey who “jumped to his death . . . after his dormitory roommate and another student posted a video of sexual encounters he had with another man online.”[5]

As has been addressed in a previous Fireplace article, the issue of whether school districts can punish students for cyber-bullying when the student’s right to free speech is implicated is not uniformly defined.[6] Due to the fact that these incidents exist off of school grounds, the ability for schools to take action against cyber-bullies is limited because action taken by a school district can only be justified if the student’s online speech “materially disrupts class work or involves substantial disorder o[f] the rights of others.”[7] The uncertainty of the state of the law is not helped by the fact that the Supreme Court has “not addressed online student speech.”[8] The ability of schools to combat cyber-bullying has been tested in at least one case in California where a parent had his child’s suspension, due to the posting of a video on YouTube, overturned when the court found the disruption to the school caused by the video posting was “only minimal.”[9]

Since cyber-bullying usually impacts one student’s emotional well being and does not affect the larger school environment, students may be unable to rely on their school to protect them if cyber-bullying happens outside of school, which in most cases it does.   The question this article seeks to answer is whether victims of cyber-bullying have legal remedies through either criminal or civil laws of New York.

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Call For Submissions

The Albany Government Law Review is currently seeking articles for its Education Reform issue, which will be in conjunction with our Fall symposium. The issue and symposium will focus on legal and legislative reforms to education in New York State. The issue will be published in Spring 2011.

The Albany Government Law Review will accept articles between 15-30 pages, which should be of publishable quality and in substantially finished form.

Articles can be submitted electronically. For more information, please contact Fatin Haddad, Managing Editor for Submissions at fhaddad@albanylaw.edu.

 

Day 2 of Classroom Politics: A Symposium on Education Reform

Lisa Alexander, Public Relations Chair for Fireplace, Albany Government Law Review Member

 

Charter or public?  Tenure or no tenure?  Testing or no testing?  These are just some of the questions that the roundtable panelists addressed on the second day of Albany Government Law Review’s symposium, “Classroom Politics: A Symposium on Education Reform.”

The panel, held on Thursday, November 11 in the Dean Alexander Moot Courtroom, featured a roundtable discussion by five distinguished panelists.  Panelists included Kathy Ahearn, Esq, Partner at Guercio & Guercio; Thomas Carroll, Chair of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability and Founder and Chairman of Brighter Choice Charter Schools; Douglas Gerhardt, Member of Harris Beach PLLC; Pauline Kinsella, Executive Director for New York State United Teachers; and Dr. Henry Levin, Ph.D, William H. Kilpatrick Professor of Economics & Education at Columbia University Teacher’s College.  Scott Waldman, Education Reporter for the Albany Times Union, moderated the discussion.

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Charles P. Rose, General Counsel for the United States Department of Education, Offers the Keynote Address at the Symposium on Education Reform

Day 1 of Classroom Politics, Symposium on Education Reform, an event co-hosted by the Albany Government Law Review and the Government Law Center was a success, with the largest audience in Albany Government Law Review’s history. This event was brought together by the Albany Government Law Review’s own Ian Group and Robert Barrows.

The Symposium began with a discussion by Congressman Paul Tonko on education reform where he stressed the need to invest more money in communities where students have high needs and parents have an inability to pay. As a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor and subcommittee member for Higher Education and Healthy Families and Communities, it was fitting that Congressman Tonko was the one to open the 2010 Symposium on Education Reform. He was quoted saying “where there’s an economic need- invest!” He discussed his expectations with respect to education reform, including the need that  public schools train their students to succeed in a global economy; tomorrow’s economy.

Continue reading “Charles P. Rose, General Counsel for the United States Department of Education, Offers the Keynote Address at the Symposium on Education Reform”