By Jacob Mayforth
According to a poll taken by the Associated Press and MTV, 56 percent of people ranging from 14 to 24 year olds, have been harassed online. It is clear that online “cyber-bullying” is a problem, but is the cure for online harassment deadlier than the disease itself? Schools around the country are dealing with this issue by monitoring students’ online socializing during and after school hours, in order to find and resolve dangerous tension that could spill over into the school itself.
“From what I have heard, there are schools in Anchorage that are starting policies where something that a student says on Facebook can be printed off and brought in, and then that student could be punished applicably by the school,” said Amy Christianson, Homer High School band teacher. “The main purpose is to prevent things that are done with cyber bullying from affecting the school.”
Education Department officials are even going so far as to threaten school officials with lawsuits if they do not monitor students lunch and evening Facebook time for harassment. The special interest groups have reinterpreted the civil-rights laws so now schools can be held accountable in court if they do not curb harassment, even if it takes place outside of school.
So far the only group to oppose this new legislation publically is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE. This group opposes the new anti harassment bill saying that it is a threat to free-speech and that the new bill “is redundant, it replaces the clear definition of harassment with a vague, speech-restrictive definition”.
Although cyber bullying can be the cause of bigger issues most students and teachers from Homer High find this bill to be both unconventional and terrifyingly restrictive, the popular consensus is that the new bill violates the privacy and free speech rights given to students in the first amendment. “I don’t think they should be able to do that, while I am not sure of the justification, I think it would be a total waste of time and a whole lot of money that could be spent better,” said Homer High School Vice-principal Doug Waclawski.
Whether or not Homer High School will adopt this bill remains undetermined, for now the debate still rages on about the constitutionality of this bill, and if it restricts the First Amendment rights of students.