'Sexters' threatened with suspension

New York City’s public school students caught “sexting” — sending explicit messages or photos — will face a 90-day suspension — even if they’re sexting at home on their own time.

Under proposed new rules, students also could be suspended for “cyber-bullying” a classmate.

Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union said public schools should not regulate activities outside schools. Unless sexting is narrowly defined, she said, students could be punished for harmless love notes.

Most sexting starts as a consensual act: A girl sends a sexy message to her boyfriend. If he sends it on to a few friends, it can get nasty. But I can’t see that adolescent foolishness is the school’s business.

Cyber-bullying is a tougher call because the victim may be afraid to come to school.

Beware of nattering nanny-staters, says Hot Air.

Principal asks parents to ban social networks

To stop cyber-bullying, a New Jersey principal is asking parents to ban social networking for their middle schoolers. In an e-mail, Anthony Orsini, principal at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, New Jersey, also asked parents to tell children they’ll be using parental control software to monitor “every place they have visited online, and everything they have instant messaged or written to a friend.”

. . . there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! None.

The principal also urged parents not to allow students to have a computer in their bedroom, saying more than 90 percent of homework doesn’t require a computer.

Dealing with the emotional fall-out from nasty rumors and gossip spread on social networking sites takes up 75 percent of her day, says Meredith Wearly, the school’s guidance counselor.

The principal urged parents to tell the police and demand an investigation if their child is the victim of online or texted attacks.

So far, response from parents has been positive, Orsini says. Children hate the idea.

Online teacher 'hate' is free speech

A Facebook page called “Ms. Sarah Phelps is the worst teacher I’ve ever met!,” was free speech, a federal court ruled last week.  Katherine Evans, now a 20-year-old journalism student, was suspended two years ago for “cyberbullying” her English teacher, reports Wired.

“It was an opinion of a student about a teacher, that was published off-campus, did not cause any disruption on-campus, and was not lewd, vulgar, threatening, or advocating illegal or dangerous behavior,” Magistrate Barry Garber of Florida ruled Friday.

The group featured a photograph of the teacher and an invitation for other students to “express your feelings of hatred.” Evans took it down after a few days.

Recently, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals split on two student free speech cases, Wired notes. Both involved students who created fake MySpace profiles of their principal.

The court ruled in favor of a Pennsylvania high school boy who claimed the principal took drugs and kept beer in his desk. The court ruled the profile, created off campus, did not disrupt the school.

But the same court ruled against a Pennsylvania junior high girl who suggested the principal was a sex addict and pedophile. The court said that was disruptive.

It’s a fine line — or no line at all.

Cause distress, go to jail

Prison Awaiting Hostile Bloggers, writes David Kravets on Wired.

Proposed congressional legislation would demand up to two years in prison for those whose electronic speech is meant to “coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person.”

Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Los Angeles, must know this will be shot down on First Amendment muster, he writes. So it’s just a way for legislators to show they’re down on cyberbullying, such as the hoax that lead to the suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier.

Sanchez’s bill goes way beyond cyberbullying and comes close to making it a federal offense to log onto the internet or use the telephone. The methods of communication where hostile speech is banned include e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones and text messages.

We can’t say what we think of Sanchez’s proposal. Doing so would clearly get us two years in solitary confinement.

If it becomes illegal to “cause substantial emotional distress,” everyone’s in trouble but the Trappists.

Banning cyberbullies

Cyberbullying at school or during school activities will be banned for California students starting Jan. 1.

The law gives school administrators the leverage to suspend or expel students for bullying other students by means of an electronic device such as a mobile phone or on an Internet social networking site like MySpace or Facebook . . .

I’d guess most cyberbullying takes place at home, but perhaps it will help to tell students that online cruelty is against the law.