Lily D. - LLI Akron

Students all over the country face the problem of being bullied. Whether that’s online, in person or in public places, it still is a challenge that many teens have to deal with. In the real world, most teens in high school aren’t being brutally bashed like in the 2011 teenage-drama Cyberbully, but still most students don’t know how to speak out and stand up.

The First Amendment gives us the right to speak, so when there are kids being bullied, it’s hard to label their actions as “unconstitutional”. When students use threats, violence and fear to bully it becomes a bigger issue, but in the end, bullying should be spoken about.

Sadly enough there have been many instances where students and teenagers couldn’t go on living because they were being mentally, emotionally and even psychically attacked. The internet is a fascinating place, but also a cruel escape for cyber-bullies to spread hate and rumors, ruining innocent people’s reputations and even lives. In a federal appeals court, there was a case concerning the school’s discipline of a student who was being bullied through a website on the internet.

According to court papers, Kowalski in 2005 created a page called “Students Against Sl*ts Herpes” and invited other MySpace participants from her school to join it. About two dozen Musselman High students joined the group, including one who accepted his invitation on a school computer. That male posted photos of the female student who was the target of ridicule by the group. One photo was altered to show the female student with red dots on her face, to suggest that she had herpes. The participants posted comments such as “lol [laughing out loud]” or “haha screw her.
— Walsh, 16, 2011.

The internet has become an outlet for people to express their feelings, emotions and biases and it has start to become a place where hate can be spread to others. The scary part is, people can get away with saying something that is far from the truth, they can be anonymous which can upset and confuse the victim because they start questioning who they can trust and who their real friends are. While there are benefits to having the right to speak up and fight back (peacefully), it is still a right that people abuse and mistreat. The way that teens can bash each other either online or in person has become a challenge that most adults won’t understand because their child is scared to say something.

This type of electronic speech has paved the way for cyber bullying and this type of bullying, although on the internet, may have the potential to be a true threat to others. Cyber bullying can be done in numerous ways on the internet such as through social networks like that of Facebook or MySpace, instant messaging, or even through e-mail. When cyber bullying is done by a student in order to bully another fellow student this then becomes a school issue.
— School Authority Over Cyberbullying, 23.

Overall the abuse and the torment that teens face on a daily base has increased tremendously in the past ten years, and the reason for that is the internet. The internet is now the biggest antagonizer in why people get bullied today, and it has become an issue. Social media has become the start-up and the reason for teenagers to contemplate suicide.

Another threshold question is whether the student’s online expression can be characterized as on-campus or off-campus speech. Some people argue that school officials do not have jurisdiction over student Internet expression that takes place off campus. The matter would be one for parental, not school, discipline, they argue. Former First Amendment Center Executive Director Ken Paulson has written: ‘There is no legal justification for censoring a student’s expression in the privacy of his home.’
— Hudson Jr., 30, 2008.

Sources Considered 

  • Kowalski v. Berkely County Schools, 652 F.3d 565 (4th Cir. 2011).
  • Walsh, Mark. "Court Upholds Discipline of Student Over Internet Bullying." The School Law Blog. Education Week. 27 July 2011.
  • LoMonte, Frank. "Supreme Court's Online Speech No-Decision Counts as a "Win" for Student First Amendment Rights." Student Press Law Center. 18 Jan. 2012.
  • "School Authority Over Cyber Bullying." WR150 First Amendment Portfolio. e-Portfolios Directory.
  • Hudson Jr., David, L. "Cyberspeech." K-12 Public School Student Expression Overview. Newseum Institute. 1 Aug. 2008.