Cyberbullying is a crime in Arkansas. And, Arkansas law requires public schools to institute and enforce anti-bullying policies that include prohibition of cyberbullying of students or school staff.
This article discusses cyberbullying laws in Arkansas. For information about cyberbullying in general, see our article, Teen Cyberbullying and Harassment.
In general, cyberbullying is a pattern of behavior by one person against another that is abusive or offensive and is intended to, and does, intimidate, threaten, or frighten the victim.
Any person who bullies or harasses another person through computer communications commits a misdemeanor crime under Arkansas law.
Any person who sends a message to another person via email, text, social networking site, Twitter, or other computerized means of communication commits a misdemeanor crime if the message:
(Ark. Code Ann. § 5-41-108.) The sender violates this law if he posts a message with the reasonable expectation that the target will receive or view it.
Any person who uses a telephone or any form of written communication to harass, annoy, or alarm another person also commits a misdemeanor crime in Arkansas. (Ark. Code Ann. § 5-71-209.) "Any form of written communication" could include email or texting, and this crime does not require an intent to frighten, intimidate, or abuse another person. As a result, a prosecutor may have an easier time proving harassing communication than unlawful computer communications.
A person convicted of either unlawful computerized communications or harassing communications faces a sentence not to exceed one year, a fine not to exceed $2,500, or both. (Ark. Code Ann. § § 5-4-401, 5-4-201.)
Arkansas law requires every public school in the state to adopt policies to prevent and address bullying on school property, on school buses, or at school-sanctioned events. (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-514.) These policies must:
(Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-514.)
As used in the school anti-bullying policy law, the term "bullying" means intentional harassment, intimidation, humiliation, ridicule, threat, or physical act by one student against another student or school employee based on an attribute of the person targeted. (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-514.) Bullying includes conduct done by electronic means.
The term "attribute," as used in the definition of bullying, means an actual or perceived personal characteristic like race, gender, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, religion, ancestry, disability, health condition, socioeconomic status, or academic status. (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-514.)
The Arkansas school anti-bullying policy law expressly declares that it is not intended to unconstitutionally interfere with student or employee rights of freedom of expression. (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-514.) However, public schools may constitutionally restrict expressive conduct that disrupts the school's function or interferes with the educational opportunities of students.
If you have questions about cyberbullying or harassment in Arkansas, talk to a lawyer experienced in criminal or educational law.