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Online aggression is one of the most serious issues confronting today's teenagers in the United States. It can seem to be less serious due to the absence of direct interaction, but it may pose significant harm to society. The victims often feel the influence of cyberbullying, and the consequences can be seen in the victim's psychological state following exposure. Cyberbullying is the use of mobile devices to intimidate others. Text messaging, email, social media networks, and blogs are examples of those methods (Postal 3). Low self-esteem, poor academic success, dropping out of school, depression, suicidal ideation, and drug and alcohol addiction are some of the reported consequences. The capability of cyberbullying to interfere with the mental state of victims is the reason why it is considered as a major threat to mental health and psychological development in young people.
In our case, an under 16 years old female student is the victim of cyberbullying. The aggressor has bullied her by sending threats to her via social media and email. As a result, she is judged negatively and bad comments are left for her. The aggressor makes it look like she is being observed while at home or even in other locations. The aggressor posts photographs of the given victim's private meetings with others or even when she is alone by herself taking part in normal activities in the surrounding neighborhood, back at home, and of course in school. This victim is a minor since she is below legal age to be considered an adult. She is a victim of cyberbullying whereby the perpetrator has harassed her several times. The harassment has led to negative portrayal to people who know her and they have already given very negative comments about her while misjudging her as the aggressor intended.
The state of Illinois is one of the states that have in place laws against bullying. The laws, formulated back in 2014 and signed by Governor Pat Quinn, talk about online aggression in specifically off-campus situations highlighting the role school personnel should perform in cases of cyberbullying (Postal 36). The state sets disciplinary measures to be taken by schools in the light of suspected online aggression. The schools' legal jurisdiction is wide and extends outside school boundaries whereby school personnel can subject aggressors to disciplinary actions for off-campus cyberbullying incidents. The Illinois HB 4207 legislation states that "bullying causes physical, psychological, and emotional harm to students and interferes with students' ability to learn and participate in school activities" (37).
What concerns the lawmakers is the effect of cyberbullying as a precursor to other types of antisocial conduct and crimes including: sexual harassment, vandalism, violence, stealing, drug abuse, and school dropout. Therefore, the law states that bullying based on distinguished characteristics such as sex, religion, color, race, ancestry, age, disability and so on, "...is prohibited in all school districts and non-public, non-sectarian elementary and secondary schools." (Postal 37). The state forbids the subjection of students to cyberbullying requiring schools to carry out investigations and establish if the incident affects learning. Furthermore, bullying is not allowed within school boundaries including events and activities organized by the school as well as property, buses, and school-owned computer and PCs.
The above law relates to the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) in which it was decided that schools should take action if cyberbullying leads to disruption of the learning and teaching process and interferes with order in school. Therefore, in our case, the female victim is followed at school, home and anywhere in the town meaning that the school has legal disciplinary jurisdiction for the case. However, the Tinker decision restricted schools from stretching beyond school boundaries.
The Tinker case might not be applicable here. In our case, the young student was bullied and received threats via social media and email, thus implying the use of electronic means to harass an individual which is against the law. In that case, the school is allowed to subject the perpetrator to disciplinary actions as per the school regulations. The impact of the behavior is evident in the negative remarks the victim gets on social media. She is judged as portrayed by the aggressor.
It appears that the given victim was subjected to online aggression on the basis of her gender as a female and age. At below 16 years old, she is not capable of effectively protecting herself. The law has to protect her. The penalties that can be issued in this case as per the state laws is school intervention. If the perpetrator is found guilty, the school can expel or suspend the individual. The penalties can extend to serving jail term for criminal offenses if the court is involved in case the school no longer has legal disciplinary jurisdiction.
Postal, Andrew David. “Where the Schoolhouse Gates End: An Analysis of State Cyberbullying Laws.” (2015).
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. 393 U.S. 503. (1969). Thesis. Georgetown University. Print.
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