Is Cyberbullying Illegal In Your State?

Juan Ramirez

May 26, 2022

With the rise of mobile technologies and new social apps, it has made it easy for bullies to continue their misbehavior on the internet. Among our BRAVEUP! resources we have shared some tactics that students and adults can use to prepare for and react to cyberbullying. Sometimes, however, these efforts don’t curtail the harassment, and the time comes to consider legal action. Is cyberbullying illegal? And if so, how are cyberbullying laws enforced?

 

There is currently no federal law against cyberbullying, but all 50 states have laws against bullying in general—and every state except Alaska and Wisconsin includes an explicit reference to cyberbullying in their anti-bullying laws. StopBullying.gov features an interactive map that gives detailed descriptions of each state’s anti-bullying laws, including what groups are protected and whether that state provides a model policy that educators can use to create anti-bullying policies for their school or district.

 

Four enforcements tools parents and schools might consider

  • Criminal sanction: Almost every state has laws that expressly criminalize electronic forms of harassment. The only states that don’t are Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
  • School sanction: In 45 states, bullying laws include provisions empowering schools to discipline students appropriately. The exceptions here are Alabama, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, and Nevada.
  • School policy: In every state except Montana, the law requires schools to have a formal policy to identify bullying and discuss possible disciplinary responses.
  • Off-campus behavior: Federal law allows schools to discipline students for off-campus behavior that substantially disrupts the learning environment, and 25 states have statutes to that effect as well.

Conclusion:

The penalties that schools can impose on cyberbullies vary from state to state. California, for example, allows schools to suspend or expel offenders on a case-by-case basis. In some states, like Massachusetts, schools have the option of using law enforcement to intervene, and can provide information about cyberbullying instances for police investigations.

 

Laws like this explicitly turn cyberbullying into a legal matter rather than a school disciplinary issue. At BRAVE UP! we keep an eye on educators and parents across the country on changes in the laws that protect students online. The most effective way to prevent bullying and cyberbullying is to identify it beforehand. Many of our resources and platform features can prevent, predict and detect bullying and cyberbullying before it’s too late.

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