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Seeks to expel students who digitally harass others

Lawmakers in California are considering a bill to punish bullies that harass fellow student via digital means, such as test messages or social networks like MySpace.

Introduced in the California legislature by Assemblyman Ted Lieu of Torrance, Assembly Bill 86 opens up the possibility of suspension or expulsion to students who threaten others via any electronic medium, defined as “any information … transmitted by wire, radio, optical cable, electromagnetic or other similar means.”

With the advent of the internet, educators are finding it increasingly difficult to watch for the signs of bullying, as students trade physical altercations with digital ones – incidents that leave occur outside of school grounds and leave little in the way of visible scars.

A California government-sanctioned review of the bill notes inspiration from the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Task Force on School and Campus Safety, which published a report suggesting schools increase their prevention activities against bullying in any form, “including cyber bullying.”

“The growth in the use of technology and social networking sites by younger Americans has fueled a fear among professionals that cyber bullying will become the means most often utilized to harass,” reads the report. “while certainly more prevalent in the elementary and secondary school setting, issues related to bullying or intimidation are increasingly relevant in other nontraditional settings.”

Much of legislators’ awareness of cyberbullying can be traced to the case of Megan Meier, a chronically-depressed 13-year-old who committed suicide in 2006 after a friendship with a “16-year-old boy” – really the parent of one of Meier’s friends, 49-year-old Lori Drew – turned south. A local police investigation eventually turned into a federal investigation, and in May 2008 Drew a federal grand jury indicted Drew on charges of conspiracy and accessing protected computers without authorization.

The FBI’s “questionable” logic in choosing to prosecute Drew based on her decision to violate MySpace’s Terms of Service (TOS) has since kicked off a thriving debate among legal experts, with lawyers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation informally offering to step in on Drew’s behalf.

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What's wrong with society?
By 306maxi on 8/13/2008 9:17:29 AM , Rating: 4
I'm only 25 but I remember when I was in primary school, you were taught to respect each other and if you didn't like someone you were told to stay away from them. There were bullies of course but unless physical violence was involed you were just told to ignore them. I've had people I don't like on MSN Messenger and I found something which works great against them. The block button.

As for the sad case of the boy in question perhaps his parents should have noticed the signs and understood that the internet is not the place for someone who is depressed due to the fact we're all a bit less inhibited with our opinions than we would be in a face to face situation. Sad story nonetheless.

RE: What's wrong with society?
By Moishe on 8/13/2008 9:21:21 AM , Rating: 5
It's sad... but our culture is such that we always pass the blame off on someone else. So we end up with a law stating that someone has to hold our d*ck while we piss so that we don't accidentally spray ourselves... (cuz OMG that would suxx0r$)

RE: What's wrong with society?
By mmntech on 8/13/2008 9:35:10 AM , Rating: 3
That's pretty much it. Besides, don't we already have a law against that? It's called stalking. It's a pretty sad statement that bullies are actually going through the trouble of anonymously hunting their victims down online. Back in my day, bullies had the balls to do it in person. lol

I think these anti-cyberbullying laws present a slippery slope. As I said before, we already have laws for libel and stalking. We risk overlegislating ourselves, and that's never good. The fact that cyberbullying happens is not because we don't have tough enough laws, but because we've failed society in identifying and treating mental health issues. Obviously the 13 year old who offed herself had previous mental issues. Which brings me to the second fault of anti-cyberbullying laws. It's just a bandaid solution so governments and individuals don't have to tackle the real issues behind it.

RE: What's wrong with society?
By HinderedHindsight on 8/13/2008 10:29:41 AM , Rating: 5
You also were probably taught that you could NOT get away with anything you want...

Typically, I would agree this is overlegislation and interfering with peoples lives. And it probably is.

I think the law is trying to change what is effectively a parenting problem in society. The unfortunate thing is that it HAS become a problem. We have children growing up in households where parents have turned them into obsessions. They are not taught the "golden" values of life and are not punished either because the parents have overvalued them to the point where respect for others is not taught, or because you have parents who just don't care and can't be bothered with the mundane issues of properly raising a child.

I think on some level, the child recognizes the power their parents are practically handing them. They realize there are few or no consequences for their actions, and begin capitalizing on it any way they can.

Unfortunately a block button might work when the person is talking to you, but what happens when they begin telling everyone else? Even in the adult world in the cult of entertainment that many people love, a whole industry is built around spreading rumors, half truths, and juicy details. As adults, we make money off of this behavior, how could we not expect children to engage in it as well? Sure, actors and actresses may ignore these attacks in print and online, but there are two big differences between an adult actor and a child.

1) not every child is emotionally equipped to handle situations where they have become a target (in fact, many are not being properly equipped by parents with life skills)
2) an adult actor/actress has tons of money, and still has fans/popularity to revalidate themselves

I have mixed feelings about this kind of law. But after growing up in California for 23 years in an upper-middle class environment, it is hard to ignore these trends of ill equipped children of privilege being given free reign to abuse the lack of consequences.

Additionally, schools are not only responsible for educating children, but assisting in providing a safe learning environment for every child, and they are allowed punish children in limited forms and preventing children from engaging in "undesireable" behavior. I'm not sure I would say this is too far of a stretch. If a child chooses to disrupt another's education by going on myspace and posting sh*t, and that sh*t gets passed around school, why shouldn't they punish that child?

Overall, I think a better solution is to shut myspace down and all these other social networking sites. It's irritating enough that half the people I meet in the real world want to give me a myspace page along with their number/email address so that I can "get to know them better." F*** that- being friends with me is not a relationship that needs to be managed via an internet social networking site.

RE: What's wrong with society?
By FITCamaro on 8/13/08, Rating: 0
By HinderedHindsight on 8/13/2008 12:38:36 PM , Rating: 4
If parents are too lazy or stupid to properly raise their kids, that's their problem.

Yes, then after the problem (the cyberbully) reaches 18 years of age, he/she become societies problem. Then the rest of us have to deal with a cyberbullies lack of ethics or respect for others.

Again it comes back to only the strong survive. If you can't cut it in the world on your own, you don't belong in it

First of all, these are children. The whole point of raising a child is to prepare them to "cut it" in the world on their own. Even in the wild, animals take some time to teach their offspring. But I'm sure you're of the opinion that we should just send children out into the streets to fend for themselves as soon as they can walk.

But let's take your "survival of the fittest" approach to the problem. If a cyberbully spews some crap about one of their classmates online (or anywhere else for that matter), does their classmate have the right to beat them down? At that point not only does the school get involved but so do the authorities and the legal system. Apparrently the government doesn't share your view of survival of the fittest problem solving.

The way I see it, if they're going to regulate a child's ability to "solve" the problem on their own, then it's not totally unreasonable to take steps to try to prevent problems before (or when) they start.

RE: What's wrong with society?
By CascadingDarkness on 8/13/2008 1:28:04 PM , Rating: 2
I have to point out one flaw in your logic.
If parents are too lazy or stupid to properly raise their kids, that's their problem.
Not that I don't wish that wasn't the case, but once they turn 18 they are everyone's problem. Just look at prisons/jails for evidence of this.

Not to say I have an elegant solution. Most people think they have a the right to have children no matter what anyone says, but don't accept the full responsibility to create a productive adjusted member of society within 18 years.

It's my opinion you have no right to a choice unless you are willing to accept the responsibilities that go along with it.

RE: What's wrong with society?
By inighthawki on 8/13/2008 9:10:18 PM , Rating: 2
I can't agree more. Many parents these have kids to have kids, and fail to accept responsibility to raise their children. When i look at all the kids around me, all i see is lazy children with no work ethic and no respect for the people around them.

The parents these days either pay no attention to their kids at all, or baby them till they're completely spoiled. Neither of which is an effective way to raise a child. Not all, but a vast majority of kids need a lot of discipline to know how to behave.

Not a few months back i used to work in a restaurant, and i would see countless parents come in and literally let their kids run loose, and i can only remember when my parents took me somewhere at that age, if i did even a fraction of what these kids did, i would wish i had never done so.

RE: What's wrong with society?
By FITCamaro on 8/13/2008 9:47:57 PM , Rating: 1
My parents were the same way. Another part of the problem though is that there are groups out there who are trying to make punishing your kids a crime. Spanking your kids is a child abuse. Slapping your kid is child abuse. Yelling at them degrades their self esteem and shouldn't be done. Typical yuppie crap.

RE: What's wrong with society?
By Lerianis on 8/16/2008 6:05:15 PM , Rating: 1
It is child abuse, FitCamaro. There are ALWAYS other ways to teach children that what they are doing are 'wrong'. The problem is that in a lot of cases, they aren't doing anything that is PHYSICALLY harmful to others and aren't forcing anyone else to do something that they don't want to do or destroying property.

Therefore, parents should butt out. And I tell parents that ALL THE TIME. I have two children of my own, straight A+ students, no criminal record, the oldest now in college..... and I raised them with the notion that unless you are physically hurting someone else, destroying property or forcing someone else to do something they don't want to do.... no one has the right to get on your case about what you are doing, and you should tell them where they can stick it.
I also taught them that NO ONE (even the police and 'public servants') automatically gets your respect. They have to EARN IT by their actions and prove to you first that they are WORTHY of respect. Unfortunately, when you go by that rule..... most people are not worthy of your respect, because you notice that they are hypocritical asses, as I have noticed for YEARS now.

There is nothing wrong with punishing your children, however slapping, spanking, or using ANY form of physical violence against your child is abuse.... and you should be in jail or prison if you cannot find another way to 'discipline' your child. I'll be blunt: I have NEVER had to physically chastise a child. In fact, most times when I find they have done something 'wrong'.... they don't know it is wrong, and I have to EXPLAIN to them why it is wrong because their parents NEVER DID.

The thing that you notice when you look at the 'criminals' in our criminal justice system, as I did: most of them were raised in conservative families, where physical punishment was an almost DAILY thing.... and it fucked them up, to be quite blunt.

RE: What's wrong with society?
By Nik00117 on 8/14/2008 2:22:17 AM , Rating: 1
I'll sum up your statements

Its a gay lay that shouldn't be in place.

Like I had this guy who always made fun of me cause I was German and sucked at this game compared to him. What did I do? Cry? Get upset? Cuss him out? Fight back? I blocked his ass, set up a e-mail filter and never heard from him again. I'm fine, I haven't committed sucidie nor am I particularly upset at what happened. Thats because I don't need people to hold my dick while I piss.

RE: What's wrong with society?
By hidinginplainsight on 8/13/2008 10:42:19 AM , Rating: 1
While I agree, you have to remember that not everyone has this common sense, and that others will blatantly put people down for the sole sake of making themselves feel better.

That aside, while blocking is great, and ensuring that people you're involving in your inner e-circle are properly screened, cyber bullying also encapsulates tactics such as sending/posting embarrassing pics online with personal information attached and spreading them through e-mail, or spamming someone's inbox with death-threats from fake e-mail accounts, neither of which are easily blocked.

With the ammount of anonymity online, I think we'll be hard pressed to accurately trace back a good portion of cyber bullying, in order to actually expel any offenders, but hopefully this law will help deter a good portion of it.

RE: What's wrong with society?
By JustTom on 8/13/2008 12:05:25 PM , Rating: 2
Very often cyber-bullies make no effort to hide their identities. Stuff is posted on their own websites or videos are shown with the bullites plainly visible. Makes things easier...

RE: What's wrong with society?
By HrilL on 8/13/2008 1:16:07 PM , Rating: 2
The case was a girl not a boy. But anyway the thing is cyberbullies are in a lot of cases are not the same bullies that were the bigger kids at school. A lot of times they turn out to be the weaker ones who take the bullying activities online because they are safe and can torment their peers physiologically which could actually end up being more harmful in the long run. I never for more laws of control but in this case something needs to be done.

And as for that mother. I think she needs to go down. If it was kid doing that then that is one thing but a 49 year old adult should no better. And if they don't then those are not the adults we want in our public.

RE: What's wrong with society?
By Lerianis on 8/16/2008 6:09:42 PM , Rating: 2
Listen, life is not all 'roses and puppies'. That girl was a ticking time bomb waiting for someone to light the fuse. I've looked at her mental health records that were leaked on another site and then taken down...... she was a seriously messed up piece of work, who had attempted suicide BEFORE that lady and her hoax got involved.

We just cannot be sure that this was the thing that drove this girl to suicide. Not when she had tried it MANY times before.

People just have to start teaching their children that there are asses out there who LOVE to manipulate people's emotions.... and then watch as they crash. I've had that done to me MANY times in my life, yet I NEVER considered suicide because of that (thought about it for OTHER reasons, but not because of bullying or cyberbullying).

The lady in question here probably thought she was just going to get a few evil 'jollies' out of harassing this girl... she didn't expect to drive her to suicide.

Safe and Secure
By Brenda J on 8/13/2008 9:28:09 AM , Rating: 2
Cyber bullying and predators are the reason I put my son on the new responsible website . This site requires a school to verify a childs identification before they can become a member. I know who he is talking to and that he is safe. Cyber bullying is not just a problem, it is an epidemic. The site I go to as a parent is and I continue to learn about cyber bullying and predators on line and how to keep them away from my son.

RE: Safe and Secure
By 306maxi on 8/13/2008 9:50:37 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think it's really as much of a problem if you teach your child not to give out their details to anyone and not to talk to anyone they don't like. I was on ICQ and MSN when I was at school and I just didn't talk to anyone I didn't like. I personally don't see the point of social networking. Kinds are online a lot these days. If they want to have send each other messages what's wrong with MSN Messenger and email? Social networking is the means to an end for the bullies. Stop children using needless social networking sites and the problem of cyber bullying disappears overnight.

RE: Safe and Secure
By HrilL on 8/13/2008 1:25:27 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think you quite understand the scope of the problem and the article doesn't mention this either. It is everywhere! It is not just Chat networks and social networks. It is the games these kids are playing online. I grew yup before we had these social networks and there was cyberybullies everywhere. Every game I played had them and you can't stop other people from giving out your contact info plus you block one screen name and they go out and make 10 more in a few seconds.

RE: Safe and Secure
By DASQ on 8/13/2008 10:23:49 AM , Rating: 2
You're the kind of overprotective reactionist that gets these kinds of ridiculous laws passed.

'Responsible' website. How is this different than a kid walking up to yours and calling him names? The bully is a verified part of your local school system. An otherwise cyber predator can reach your kid through many, many different means, if he has an email account, any kind of instant messaging of any kind.

The actual solution is to teach your kids what is right, what is wrong, and what to do if they are unsure. Chances are your kid is already scared sh*tless of telling you about the new friend he made online lest you ransack his personal life further.

RE: Safe and Secure
By Lerianis on 8/16/2008 6:12:35 PM , Rating: 1
Yes, but what is 'right' and 'wrong'. Each person had to decide that for themselves, and unfortunately (unless they are causing physical harm to someone else or property damage) no one else has the right to dictate to someone else what 'right' and 'wrong' is.

That's a period and done with there.

We just have to start NOT protecting our children, and have them live in the REAL WORLD. That is what my parents did for me when I was young: didn't protect me from jack shit and expected ME to report something if I didn't like it, which I did many times.

RE: Safe and Secure
By FITCamaro on 8/13/2008 10:35:07 AM , Rating: 2
How about you just teach your kid to ignore people who bother him? I got bullied in the real world plenty as a kid. You ignore the annoying @ssholes and they eventually go away.

Legislation is no substitute for good parenting.

RE: Safe and Secure
By MrBungle123 on 8/13/2008 10:46:52 AM , Rating: 3
I used to get bullied too... Then I took up weight lifting... then I put the bully in a trash can. The bullying stopped.

RE: Safe and Secure
By HinderedHindsight on 8/13/2008 12:53:29 PM , Rating: 3
Then I took up weight lifting... then I put the bully in a trash can.

They arrest kids now for that kind behavior and call it assault.

RE: Safe and Secure
By Spuke on 8/13/2008 1:29:32 PM , Rating: 2
They arrest kids now for that kind behavior and call it assault.
I say this is unfortunate because that simple act cured his problem and the bully wasn't unnecessarily hurt and probably learned a good lesson from it. Ignoring doesn't always work and telling your parents nowadays brings about mixed results.

RE: Safe and Secure
By hobbes7869 on 8/14/2008 7:52:47 AM , Rating: 2
I agree it is sad that when one fights back it is assault. I was bullied , chose to ignore, even tried to call the bullys parent at home to stop it, and i was in middle school. Didnt work, So one day I punched him. He stopped. Simple solution. Turns out he is now in jail for 15 years, and I have a good family and job, Weird how that works out. Anyway, I will always teach my kids that first try the non violent avenues, ignoring or verbal confrontation, and if it doesnt work they have my express permission to hit back.

Schools should deal with school problems
By nafhan on 8/13/2008 10:25:10 AM , Rating: 5
I'm worried about the precident of schools expanding there jurisdiction to activities that occur outside of school property.
Unless the cyberbullying occurs on school equipment, the school should not have anything to do with it. Depending on what happens, contacting parents or the police may be appropriate, but schools should not have responsibility for things that happen outside of school property.

By ThePooBurner on 8/13/2008 10:42:12 AM , Rating: 2
I couldn't agree with you more. Someone else pointed out the slippery slop being created by this type of totally unnecessary law. We already have laws that deal with the jurisdiction of home life harassment. Just because the people involved with it are minors DOES NOT mean that it has anything to do with schools and them telling us/our kids/anyone what they can and can't do outside of school grounds. The school's authority over a person ends the moment that they leave the campus or when the end of school bell rings (seeing as when school isn't in session and no one is there the grounds are in the jurisdiction of federal law and not the school policies and code of conduct). Laws such as this one are dangerous. We need to have fewer laws that are just enforced better (as well as better parenting and societal responsibility) rather than more pointless laws that extend the reach of the government in to every aspect of our personal lives. With crap like this it won't be to long till a kid gets detention for fighting with his sibblings because "fighting isn't allowed by the school laws".

By tastyratz on 8/13/2008 11:03:04 AM , Rating: 2

This is not just a law protecting people this is overstepping the boundaries and involving irrelevant sources. Its similar to how they take your license if you buy alcohol for underage kids instead of just fines/jail time- even if no automobiles are involved.

Digital bullying is hard to prove too. Anyone could be at the other end of the computer and its difficult to prove it was the minor in question (who probably broke a TOS rule joining whatever they did to begin with)

What if the child behaves well in school but gets in an altercation outside of it. How is that AT ALL relevant to a child's behavior in the education system? Should the be issued detention if the school detects they didn't eat their broccoli? Are parents allowed to even be parents anymore?

I know! Lets have an underage bully registration system similar to a sexual predator registry. That way parents can know who is a bully in their neighborhood and check the registry. Could save a lot of people money on child size bubbles since the world keeps popping them.

The sad part is were probably not that far away from that.

Bullies are a part of life and the school system deals with them now appropriately. School is not just english and math - it is a preparation for life to come. It is an establishment of social skills more than anything. If you shield your child from everything they wont be prepared when it happens.

Where is the participation award they received at sports when they applied for the job and were turned down?

How about the restraining order from that girl they liked? They always had to get valentines from everyone or nobody at all so rejection will be a new concept.

As a child these things are tolerable and points of growth. Maturing still as an adult has consequences that can be dangerous

By Moishe on 8/13/2008 9:19:30 AM , Rating: 2
No offense to the do-gooders of the world, but not everything needs to be "managed" by a nanny-state. Sometimes people are a little "off" and commit suicide. Sad, yes. Good reason for a new law? Hell no.

1. Teach people to respect other humans. (bully)
2. Teach people to have a thicker skin. (bully-ee)

Life is rough, by a freakin helmet.

RE: well....
By retrospooty on 8/13/2008 9:23:19 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed... Ca is a nice place to leave. I left 4 years ago and moved to Az becasue it just sucks to be there anymore. Retarded politicans, 1 million dollar 40 year old 3 bedroom homes, and disgusing overcrowding traffic to boot. The ONLY thing nice there is the weather - cant beat that anywhere.

RE: well....
By Moishe on 8/14/2008 1:38:11 PM , Rating: 2
I was born in CA and have spent time there. Great weather. Beautiful land. Crappy politics.

As many above state...
By tdktank59 on 8/13/2008 10:30:11 PM , Rating: 2
It is sad when the youth of America don't have the values they should carry along with them in life.

I am 18 as of April of this year, however unlike most people I know my parents were strict enough to get the point across. In my view they were too lenient and should have "beat" me a bit more... Now mind you as I tell my brother when he says I have mental problems I was more psychologically abused which makes me who I am. Im not a stalker or any of that sort of stuff I just like to joke around a bit more than other people and what not...

If at 18 I can see all these problems that people are getting lazy, careless, un-responsible, and need a person like Dr. Phill or Oprah to tell them how to live. Then there is something WRONG

I can go on and on about this but come on... an 18 year old actually figuring this out on his own lol thats a hint there...

RE: As many above state...
By Lerianis on 8/16/2008 6:17:11 PM , Rating: 1
People have values.... they just don't feel that this 'politically correct' shit is necessary. A lot of people in this world just need to get thicker skin and realize that 'harassment' is part of life, and not everyone in this world is going to like your ass.

Heck, we had this shit YEARS ago..... boys would 'trick' girls into having sex with them, and then dump them in the most INCONSIDERATE ways (when my father/mother were children). None of them committed suicide, and that was in the REAL WORLD.

People are just getting too sensitive and want to muzzle other people's free speech because they want to be little 'pantywaists'.

By dflynchimp on 8/13/2008 9:18:54 AM , Rating: 2
...when the prerequisite of surviving the joy that is the internet entailed having at least thick enough skin to endure the eternal wrath of flames and net trolls? Has it come to the point where we really need to have our hands held when we're online? Seriously I fire off boatloads of empty threats at my friends online on a regular basis; if this gets around it could seriously stunt my creative expressionism online.

By Jellodyne on 8/13/2008 4:13:50 PM , Rating: 2
Camp my corpse in Stranglethorn Vale will you, damn gankers. I'm taking you to COURT!

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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