Jocelyn Ho, Bullied to Death: Cberbullying and Student Online Speech Rights

64 Fla. L. Rev. 789 |

In the age of online social networking, photo and video sharing, blogs, text messaging, and other forms of communication technology, bullying among teenagers has reached a whole new level. It has transcended the traditional schoolyard context and crossed into cyberspace, leaving victims of bullying more vulnerable than ever. Recent headline-grabbing suicides, such as the cyberbullying-related suicides of Megan Meier, Phoebe Prince, Tyler Clementi, and Jamey Rodemeyer, have launched the issue of cyberbullying into the national spotlight.

With so many recent cases of suicide, school officials, legislators, teachers, and parents are struggling to curb cyberbullying among students without infringing their First Amendment rights. This Note addresses the uncertain legal boundaries that public school officials face in regulating online student speech and recommends anticyberbullying rules that schools constitutionally may apply to prevent and reduce both on- and off-campus cyberbullying.

This Note suggests that in establishing these rules, schools should maintain the distinction between on- and off-campus cyberbullying, by regulating on-campus cyberbullying in most circumstances and giving full First Amendment protection to exclusively off-campus cyberbullying in all circumstances. This approach leaves open ample avenues for schools to regulate the most common form of cyberbullying—that is, off-campus cyberbullying connected with on-campus in-person bullying. In dealing with this increasingly prevalent form of bullying, schools should be able to reach the off-campus element by regulating bullying as a whole. In doing so, schools will be able to create a safer school environment for cyberbullying victims without infringing on protected student speech rights.

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