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North Carolina passed a law that makes it a crime for students bullying teachers on the Internet.
The law provides that students face misdemeanor criminal charges for intimidating or tormenting faculty online, reports The Wall Street Journal. Students convicted of the crime could face a $1,000 fine and possible probation.
The North Carolina law is interesting as many states have been pushing to pass laws that make it illegal for students to cyber-bully other students. This is the first state that makes it illegal for students to bully teachers.
If you've gone through high school, you know this is a time when individuals can be particularly cruel. Students are old enough to think of really harmful statements. But they are still too young to fully realize what they are saying.
As a result, teachers and other faculty have been the victims of some particularly cruel pranks and remarks online. Oftentimes, students will make fake online profiles of teachers and make disgusting comments. Other times, students will just disparage teachers online. Given the nature of the Internet, these statements are preserved and anyone can see them.
But while the state has obvious interests in protecting its teachers, one may ask whether the law goes too far. After all, students, like other American citizens, have a right to free speech.
That right has been established since a Supreme Court decision in the 1960s that found that students' First Amendment rights are generally protected on campus, reports the Journal. However, administrators can punish students for speech on school grounds when they can clearly show it caused significant disruption to school activities.
As the North Carolina law would potentially be banning speech made from a student's home, the law would be pushing the established Supreme Court decision. A lot has happened since the 1960s -- including the evolution of bullying -- and the Supreme Court may need to step in again to clarify what speech a school can regulate.