With the emergence of modern technologies, the problem of bullying has been redefined, and it has certainly become much harder to control. Cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment are a very real occurrence, but until relatively recently, the laws have failed to address the issue.
Today, however, cyberbullying and cyberstalking may be punished in a number of ways, including school policies (where students are concerned), under criminal statutes, and by way of civil lawsuits. There are serious consequences for both the bully and the victim, so it’s imperative that everyone involved understands the potential ramifications of engaging in this sort of activity.
For example, did you know that cyberstalking, specifically, is a felony? If convicted, cyberstalkers face a fine of up to $5,000, up to 2 years in prison, or both. As you know, a felony conviction can also have several other very serious and long-lasting consequences.
Other criminal statutes that apply to this are laws that specifically protect students’ rights (MS Code Ann. § 37-11-20) and those that address stalking (MS Code Ann. § 97-3-107).
Civil lawsuits that come about as a result of cyberbullying or cyberstalking may include any number of emotional, social, or financial factors. For example, a bully may be ordered to cover the cost of the victim’s therapy or time lost from work. Also, in the case of personal property damage, bullies will often be ordered to reimburse the victim or pay for a replacement.
Anti-Bullying Policies Required by Law
Because of the high incidence of bullying on school grounds and the severe trauma that this can cause for victims, anti-bullying policies have been legally mandated for all public and private schools. These policies are required to extend to all school property, including buses, athletic facilities, etc.
Each school policy is meant to address both electronic and non-electronic forms of bullying, and it must contain clearly defined procedures for reporting, investigating, and correcting bullying behavior.
If you are in the position of being accused of bullying, you should be aware that any consequences that are administered per legally-mandated school policy DO NOT prevent your victim from also pursuing criminal and civil damages in court.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended for general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.