State Cyberbullying Laws
Even though bullying has been around forever, it has become a hot topic in the news lately and government officials have finally taken action and instituted bullying laws in states all over America.
With new technologies at everyone’s disposal bullying has become more accessible and more popular than ever and as a result, teen suicide is on the rise. Bullying is a serious problem for people of all ages.
Bullying Law Facts & Statistics
Although there is no official federal law against bullying, all fifty states have their own laws protecting victims and punishing the guilty. However, only some states include criminal sanctions for bullying. Other states have plans to implement criminal sanctions but have yet to do so.
- All fifty states have bullying laws protecting victims.
- 48 of the state laws include electronic harassment.
- Only 18 laws include criminal sanctions for bullying.
- 12 states have proposed criminal sanctions but have yet to put them into practice.
- 45 states have school rules with steep penalties for oncampus bullying.
- Only 14 of the laws affect offcampus bullying incidents.
- Montana has no school bullying policy of any kind.
Both the laws and the penalties for each state can be very different. Most states do require schools to have policies in place, but they leave the specifics including punishment up to the school faculty and administrators.
California enacted “Seth’s Law” in 2011 after a 13-year old boy, Seth Walsh committed suicide. Seth had been cyberbullied about his sexual orientation and identity.
Oklahoma is a state that is cracking down hard on bullying by instituting their anti-bullying law Bill 1661. This law targets cyberbullying and empowers schools to initiate severe punishment including criminal charges. Taking the responsibility off the school and making cyberbullying a legal matter, alleviates a lot of the stress and pressure from administrators and parents. Schools are still responsible for documenting incidents and performing the initial investigation, but it still becomes a legal matter.
Schools are the “first line of defense” against bullying, and they are held accountable by both the Department of Education and the Department of Justice. If they fail to prevent or stop bullying in their schools, they can face severe penalties.
Missouri has the strictest anti-bullying laws assigning misdemeanors and even felonies to some bullying incidents. States like Missouri are going beyond just school incident laws and enforcing anti-bullying sanctions across the board. For repeat or adult offenders who bullying someone 17 or younger the penalties are steep.
Colorado has been slow to institute an official cyberbullying law, but it does have a strict anti-harassment law that includes electronic harassment. Classified as a misdemeanor, an offense of harassment is subject to a $50 fine and six months in jail. If the incident is based on racism or violates someone’s civil rights, the term can be extended to 6-18 months in prison.
Bullying laws vary widely from state to state, but this problem is no longer in the background, strict penalties for harassment and bullying others is no longer tolerated. Programs within schools and communities to educate and prevent bullying are helping the cause tremendously.
Although we have a ways to go, at least we are headed in the right direction.
Bullying and State Laws
State laws on bullying vary tremendously and even classify harassment behaviors differently. There are four classifications of rules that each state has implemented or has yet to include as part of their legislation.
Criminal Sanctions - this refers to states that classify cyberbullying as a criminal offense and impose penalties equal to the crime.
School Sanctions - these states specify that school administrators and teachers have the ability to carry out appropriate punishment for bullying offenses.
School Policy - all states except for Montana require every school to have a bullying policy and enforce it with prevention measures and discipline.
Off-Campus - these laws allow the schools to punish students for off-campus bullying offenses that affect students while in school or create a hostile environment.
Cyberbullying or Online Harassment Laws
Alaska is the only state that does not include any cyberbullying or online harassment law in their current legislation.
Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Wyoming are the only states that do not classify cyberbullying as a criminal charge. All other states consider cyberbullying to be a legal issue.
Alabama, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, and New Hampshire currently do not allow schools to carry out punishment for bullying incidents within the school. All other states have policies in place allowing it.
Every state except for Montana requires all schools to have a policy in place to deal with bullying, a program of education and prevention along with an investigation process.
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming are states that do not allow any punishment for off-campus bullying crimes to be doled out by schools. Georgia has proposed this law, but it has not yet been approved.
From the evidence above, it is clear that states are taking bullying much more seriously. New laws are being passed every day to stop this serious crime that can have life-altering consequences for many young people and teens.