State moves against cyberbullying but Constitutional issues loom

Current state law doesn't address cyberbullying so new bill tries to gives schools more ammo for the problem, but ACLU warns of First Amendment concerns.

Schools may soon have a bit more muscle to expand anti-bullying policies to include online bullying, reports the Arkansas News.

An amendment to an Arkansas state law that requires the board of directors of every school district to adopt policies to prevent bullying of students, has gotten the go-ahead from the House Education Committee, despite testimony from an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer that the measure might not be Constitutional.

House Bill 1072 by Rep. Shirley Walters, a Republican, would expand the law to cover bullying "by an electronic act," whether on or off school grounds.

"If we had had specific policies in our handbook, it would have given us a better backup on our actions. We had, of course, bullying policies, but we didn't address it specifically from electronic devices," said Kay Johnson, superintendent of the Greenwood School District.

Individual school boards would have to determine how cyberbullying should be punished. The bill would not take any powers away from school boards, she said. There is some question, however, whether the cyberbullying law is constitutional

"There's a fine line between regulating bullying and ensuring that it's consistent with free speech rights under the First Amendment," said ACLU lawyer Holly Dickson testified against the bill.

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