Tag Archives: cyber bullying

Is Cyber-Bullying A Free Speech Issue?

Katherine Evans while in high school is suing the principal of Pines Charter High School in Miami for violating her freedom of speech rights because he suspended her for three days after Ms. Evans created a Facebook group based on one of her teachers. The group was named “Mrs. Sarah Phelps is the worse teacher I ever met” and attracted three students who joined in order to praise the teacher. The principal found out about the group and suspended Ms.Evans for cyber bullying and disruptive behavior. A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union does not seek monetary damages but asks the school to remove the suspension from her record because that action “stained(Evan’s) academic record and violated her First Amendment rights.”

The case raises many questions as to whether freedom of speech is allowed when an individual establishes a web site for the sole purpose of damaging the reputation of another. This blog is committed to the principle of free speech, but the Evans situation is somewhat different because it was more than free speech. It also entailed a deliberate effort to drive an individual from her job and create tension and disruption in the classroom. What if ten or fifteen of the teacher’s students went to the Facebook site and expressed insults and derogatory statement about Ms. Phelps which resulted in the loss of a job. Does Ms. Phelps also have constitutional rights?

First British Cyber Bullying Trial

A housewife who created a phoney MySpace account that she used to send hostile emails to a neighbor’s 13 year old girl was charged with cyber-bullying that resulted in the young girl’s killing herself. Lori Drew is charged with posing as a fictitious 16 year-old boy named, “Josh Evans,” as part of a plot to establish a friendship with the vulnerable girl who had a history of depression and was being subjected to bullying at school. Ms. Drew used the MySpace account to “tease, embarrass, humiliate, make fun and hurt” the girl who was suicidal and boy crazy. She even told the girl “the world would be a better place” without her presence.

The sick Ms. Drew established the MySpace account because she thought Megan Meier was spreading false rumors about her own daughter. Ms.Drew justified her behavior on the basis that, “as a mother, you have to protect your daughter.” Her lawyer argues people constantly create false identities and the jury should not learn about the 13 year-old girl’s death.