North Carolina Cyberbullying Law Raises Free Speech Concerns

From News14 Charlotte, February 27, 2014 by Shawn Flynn

Whether to protect our kids and teachers or protect our first amendment rights is a question being hotly debated in regards to North Carolina’s new cyberbullying laws.

A small central North Carolina town now finds itself in the center of the debate over cyberbullying.

In fourteen months authorities charged four students across the state with the stricter 2012 cyberbullying law. The first and only conviction happened in Lee County.

Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter talked about the cyberbullying conviction and explained a bit about what happened with the student. “The student took several pictures of his teacher and posted on his Facebook page,” he said.

The police report shows the student took pictures of one teacher with him doing a sexually explicit motion behind her and another picture and comment of a different teacher’s backside.

Sheriff Carter said, “Just mischievous conduct. He was suspended from school and charged under the new cyberbullying law.”

They are young people and they make bad decisions, but we don’t think it should be criminalized.

The ACLU fought the passage of this law in 2012 and continues the battle.

Policy Director for the ACLU of North Carolina Sarah Preston said, “If you’re going to infringe on constitutional rights you want to make sure the law is very clear.” Preston points to words like intimidate or torment, with no clear definition.

The civil liberties group is specifically concerned about a section protecting teachers from bullying by students. Especially the part where it prohibits making statements true or false that intends to provoke.“They’re basically saying it’s not OK to criticize government officials, and they’re teaching students it’s not OK to question authority and we think that sets a bad precedent. It’s a slippery slope,” Preston said. The ACLU said this case is an example of a law gone too far.

The young man pleaded guilty in December and was given a prayer for judgment, which means his record will be cleared if he stays out of trouble.

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Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 7:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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