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Students could be prosecuted for ‘bullying’ teachers online under Miss. bill

Teachers used to rap over your knuckles if you talked back in class. Under a bill in Mississippi, students could be prosecuted for “bullying” a teacher online.

The Student Press Law Center reports that the bill by state Rep. Bobby Moak, a Democrat, “would make it a misdemeanor if students post to social media to ‘intimidate or torment’ another student or school employee”:

The bill would also criminalize statements — even if they are true — that are intended or are likely to provoke a third party to stalk or harass a student or school employee.

Talk about the mother of all heckler’s vetoes:

The point of the legislation, he said, is to prevent people from using social media to bully their teachers or classmates “and hopefully people will think twice if this legislation passes.”

His legislation prohibits students from “creating false profiles of teachers or other students or hacking into others’ accounts” and would apply off school grounds as well.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who just authored a Supreme Court brief defending students’ right to wear American-flag themed clothes to school, says there’s no legal definition of “torment,” or even a “clear definition” in the dictionary, so students could conceivably be punished for speech that causes “worry and annoyance or disturbance and commotion.”

The Student Press Law Center says North Carolina already has a similar law that punishes students who make a social media account “in the name of a school official to ‘torment’ or ‘intimidate’ the employee.”

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

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