Do schools have the right to punish cyberbullying that occurs off school grounds?

A cyberbullying incident that led to a lawsuit against a school really got me thinking about how much control a school has over online bullying that takes place after school hours and off school grounds.

A video was posted on youtube, documenting about twenty Beverly Vista Middle School students who were bad mouthing a female classmate. School officials learned of the online video and suspended the student who uploaded it on the grounds that it was cyberbullying.

The student then filed a lawsuit against the district claiming that it doesn't fall under the schools jurisdiction because it was off campus.

What do you think? Do schools have the right to punish online bullying acts that takes place after school hours and off school grounds?

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I don't think schools should punish cyberbullying if it is not during school ours. However, I'm sure if it is happening after school hours then it is most likely happening during school hours. This video should have made administration and teachers aware of the problem and look for a reason for suspension. I doubt they would not have a hard time finding something.

Also, if the video was viewed at school then I think the school would have reason for suspension.
Good points. I'm sure there must have been circulation of some sort or viewing on campus grounds.
I'd be interested in the outcome of that case. Two comments--I would guess if the bullying took place on a school initiated site--ning, wiki, blog, email, etc. then the district would be liable. (reason to get parent written permission for everything we do with kids online and have Terms and Conditions for the kids) Also, I guess we, as educators, need to educated kids early on about bullying, cyberbullying, inappropriate comments and pics and so on.
Yes, absolutely agree with you. I cannot stress enough how important it is that not only educators take on the responsibility of informing students on responsible and safe Internet practices, along with the online dangers. I think issues like cyberbullying and online predators should be addressed at school and in the home. Some teachers are taking the initiative and incorporating lessons on it. Others are bringing in multimedia experts who deliver web safety seminars to students.
Kiwi, just read an article that said there are actually not more predators than there were 10 years ago the police are just catching more. So when you see the number of predators captured and it looks like hundreds more it is better policing rather than more predators. I do believe the predators are out there, don't get me wrong, but the media sensationalizes every case--compared to the number of people online it is a very small percentage. The more pervasive problems are peer to peer interactions, bullying, sxting, etc. IMHO.
Thanks for sharing Nancy. What article was this? I'm very interested in reading about it more.

I've always wondered if cases are just getting more publicity or if there are actually more predators.

I've also wondered whether bullying has increased compared to the generations who didn't have the Internet. I wonder if the slew of new social technologies and its ease of use and "anonymity" have increased the incidence of bullying, as well as whether psychological bullying versus physical bullying is now the main form of harassment.

Sexting I agree is much more of a problem than I had imagined.
55% of all young adults are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages via text, email, or IM.
33% of young adults are posting nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves. (Prevent Teen and Unplanned Preganancy and, 2008)
And here is an even more alarming stat: 36% of teens say it's common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient. --Yet, they do it anyways???
Kiwi, Saw a psychologist on Oprah the other day discussing the suicides of the two 11-year old boys. Both boys hung themselves after being bullied with sexually harrassing homophobic slurs--gay, fag, homo, etc. This psychologist said most school are really missing this part of the bullying discussion, if they are discussing bullying at all. She said this is the one type of bullying that has really grown over the last few years--and schools are not addressing it.

The article was in one of those free newspapers we get monthly in the mail but it was not eSchool News, If I remember when it comes next month I'll send you the name of it. N.
Thanks Nancy. I think I read about one of them. The most recent one I read about was Carl Josef Walker-Hoover. You can read more about it here -

It's tragic.

Most probably, the bullies didn't even forsee such a terrible ending. At the most, they probably got joy out of the victim's tears, and had a good laugh.

But for the victims, they need the support and awareness of how to deal with bullying - who to go to, to know that there are people they can turn to.

I came across stats that say 3 out of 4 kids have been bullied while at school. Knowing kids, that's believable. Unfortunately, the bullying isn't limited to just at school.
I am not sure. I wish it was right for the school to suspend them, but I dont know if they have the right since it was off school grounds. It may fall into the parents responsibility to discipline the child. Sometimes you know schools will discipline when parents won't which is sad. As parents you would think they would want their child to know right and wrong and to punish them when they have done something wrong.
I'm wondering if the parents are even aware. Sometimes they only find out what they're kids are doing after something big has happened. A lot of these kids are harassing others online and many parents don't have a clue about what their kids are doing online.
If the effects of the cyberbullying impede on the educational rights of students during the school day, even if it's happening at home, I say yes. It has to be addressed.
I think the district does have a right to do this if the incident affects the tone of the school or how the student who is being bullied performs in school - these factors would give the cyberbullying incident a connection to the school and it would therefore fall under their jurisdiction. In the past we have suspended individuals who have had fights off campus using the same reasoning.



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