State tries to ban online teacher torment

Since cyber-bullying became part of the school landscape, states have tried to put in rules to protect students. Now North Carolina wants to do the same for its teachers.

Under a proposed  law, students who use the internet to “torment or intimated a school employee” can be convicted of a misdemeanor and fined $1000. This law says such torment can include building a “fake profile or website,” posting a “real or doctored image” or signing up a teacher for an online porn site.

The proposal comes as courts are trying to balance students’ free speech rights against a rise in online abuse directed at school officials. In one case, a court sided with a student who made a parody site with his principal’s picture and phrases like “steroid freak” and “big whore.”

While students have always mocked school figures, online media can produce insults that are especially cruel and widespread. In college, I recall seeing a professor consoling a crying librarian who had found a website on which students disparaged her appearance and more.

The proposed North Carolina law, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, appears well-intentioned but may fail First Amendment scrutiny. As always in these situations, there may be a will to stamp out cyber-bullying but not a way.

(Image by tommaso lizzul via Shutterstock)