High schoolers texting photos of a half-dressed, drunken classmate, jealous teens ganging up on the new girl on Facebook—are these just samples of the age-old adolescent drama playing out on a new stage? Or, are they examples of a light-speed escalation of bullying? State legislatures are grappling with these questions.
The crime of harassment (which can include stalking, hate crimes, and cyberbullying) occurs when one person acts in a way designed to annoy, provoke, threaten, or otherwise cause another person emotional distress. State laws and some federal laws identify multiple ways in which harassment can be committed.
Question: My son was the victim of cyberbullying and we have taken steps to get it stopped. We got the school involved, but didn’t sue anyone. I know that the posts and pictures the bullies put online will never go away, and that, as an adult, my son will suffer when friends, employers, landlords, and others find them.
When it comes to bullying (in person or through electronic means) parents of the target may sometimes feel that their teenager is being victimized, while the teen is unfazed by this seemingly abusive behavior. (This scenario does not include teens who are truly suffering at the hands of a bully, but who say they are fine to avoid being labeled a “tattletale.”)
Question: My daughter is in 8th grade at a public school in Miami. Lately, she has been the butt of some very mean verbal attacks and tweets by a group of popular girls who have her in their sights for some reason. I talked to a counselor at the school but she wasn’t much help. Does the law require the school to step in?
Question: My son, Jason, is a seventh-grader who started hanging out with a rowdy group this year. He and his buddies played a few pranks on another student and that kid reported them to the school, saying he was being bullied. The school overreacted and got the cops involved.
Question: I was dating a girl at my high school and she broke up with me. She told all her friends that I was too cheap to take her to the Miley Cyrus concert but she knew I just couldn’t afford it. The whole school knows about it now and I’m humiliated. So, I revenge tweeted that she is a sloppy
Question: My 16-year-old daughter was recently suspended from high school in Palo Alto after she Instagram’ed a photo of a female classmate with whom she has apparently been bickering for some time. My daughter claims the girl gave as good as she got (although she never posted photos of my daughter).