Cyberbullying Laws in Colorado

It is a crime in Colorado to harass or threaten anyone via an electronic communication. And every school in the state is required to institute policies against student-on-student bullying and cyberbullying under state law.

This article discusses cyberbullying laws in Colorado. For information about cyberbullying in general, see Teen Cyberbullying and Harassment.

Cyberbullying as a Crime

It is a crime in Colorado to use any of the following, in order to communicate with another individual in a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily harm or property damage to the other person:

  • a telephone
  • data network
  • text message
  • instant message, or
  • computer network or system.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-111.) Anyone who uses any of the means of communication listed above to make an obscene comment, request, suggestion, or proposal also commits criminal harassment.

“Obscene”

The Colorado harassment law defines “obscene” as a “patently offensive” description of sexual acts or a solicitation to engage in sexual acts, “including masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, anilingus, or excretory functions,” whether actual or simulated. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-111.) Under this definition, a “prankster” who texts a photo of his cartoon image of a sexual act to another person has committed the crime of harassment through electronic communications.

How is Cyberbullying Punished in Colorado?

Harassment of someone online, by text, email, social network posts, or otherwise is a misdemeanor crime in Colorado. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-111.) A person convicted of harassment may be sentenced to not more than one year in county jail, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-505.)

Public School Responsibility

In addition to the criminal harassment law against cyberbullying, Colorado law requires public schools to take action to prevent and address cyberbullying.

Policy

Public schools in Colorado must adopt policies to prevent bullying.(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-32-109.1.) The policies must set out the discipline that will be imposed on students who engage in bullying or who retaliate against a student who reports suspected bullying. In addition, the principal of each school must report annually to the school district all incidents of bullying and how they were resolved. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-32-109.1.)

“Bullying”

As used in the public school anti-bullying laws, “bullying” means any “written or verbal expression, or physical or electronic act” that is intended to cause physical, mental, or emotional harm to another student. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-32-109.1.)

Community Engagement

The Colorado public school anti-bullying law also requires schools to conduct annual surveys of students regarding their impressions of the severity of bullying in their schools. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-32-109.1.) Schools must also organize teams to offer advice concerning bullying in the schools. These teams may consist of law enforcement officials, social workers, prosecutors, medical and mental health professionals, school psychologists, counselors, teachers, administrators, parents, and students. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-32-109.1.)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you or anyone you know has experienced or been accused of harassment or bullying, you may want to speak with a lawyer experienced in criminal defense or education law. Community involvement in ending all forms of bullying is an essential element of Colorado law.

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