Cyberbullying Laws in Georgia

A person who contacts or conducts surveillance on another person using electronic communications or devices without the other person’s consent commits a crime in Georgia. All public schools in Georgia must establish anti-bullying policies and codes of conduct. Students who bully other students using electronic communications or devices face discipline in Georgia.

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

Criminal Cyberbullying

Bullying someone through the use of an electronic communications device or means (phone, text message, instant message, email, social networking site posting, or other means) is “cyberbullying.” In Georgia, cyberbullying is a form of criminal stalking. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-5-90.) A person commits stalking by:

  • contacting another person without the recipients consent (including contact via electronic communications), or
  • placing another person under surveillance, including electronic surveillance
  • for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person.

(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-5-90.)

What Kind of “Contact” Does Cyberbullying Include?

For purposes of Georgia’s criminal cyberbullying laws, “contact” is defined as any communication, including “in person, by telephone, by mail, by broadcast, by computer, by computer network, or by any other electronic device.” (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-5-90.)

How Are “harassing and intimidating” Actions Defined?

For purposes of Georgia’s criminal cyberbullying laws, “harassing and intimidating” is defined as a “knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person” that

  • causes emotional distress by placing the victim in reasonable fear for his or her own safety or the safety of an immediate family member, and
  • establishes a pattern of behavior that serves no legitimate purpose.

(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-5-90.) A person may be guilty of stalking even if he or she makes no overt threat of death or bodily injury toward the victim.

How is Cyberbullying Punished in Georgia?

Stalking is a misdemeanor in Georgia. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-5-90.) A person convicted of misdemeanor stalking in Georgia faces a jail sentence of up to 12 months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. (Ga. Code Ann. § 17-10-3.)

Schools

Each local board of education in Georgia must adopt a policy that prohibits student-on-student bullying, and must include the prohibition on bullying in its student code of conduct for all schools in the district. (Ga. Code Ann. § § 20-2-751.4, 20-2-751.5.)

“bullying”

For purposes of the Georgia educational policy, “bullying” means an act that occurs on school property, on a school vehicle, at a school bus stop, at a school function, or through the use of school software or electronic technology that is:

  • an intentional written, verbal, or physical act that a reasonable person would perceive as being intended to threaten, harass, or intimidate and that
  • substantially interferes with another student’s education or substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school and
  • is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment.

(Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-751.4.)

Immunity from lawsuits

Under Georgia law, anyone who reports an incident of bullying in a Georgia public school cannot be sued for civil liability for any damages caused by their reporting. (Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-751.4.)

See a Lawyer

If you or anyone you know has experienced or been accused of harassment, stalking, or bullying, you may want to speak with a lawyer experienced in criminal defense or education law in your area.

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