A year ago, 14-year old Alex Boston showed up to her Kennesaw, Georgia school to meet a cold reception from friends and classmates. Some asked her why she said such terrible things to them on Facebook. Alex quickly found out about a phony Facebook page that had been set up with her name and her photo, modified to make her face look enlarged. According to the Associated Press, the fake page stated that Alex spoke “Retardish” and smoked marijuana and that she posted a racist video; the profile had made offensive remarks on friends’ walls and posted sexually explicit statements.
Mortified, Alex immediately told her parents who then contacted the administrators at Palmer Middle School and the Cobb County Police to no avail. After numerous attempts at contacting Facebook to remove the phony profile, the Boston family felt there was no choice but to sue the two students allegedly responsible and their parents, to bring awareness to the effects the cyberbullying had on Alex. Facebook removed the page when the lawsuit was launched last week.
So why didn’t school officials or police do anything? It gets tricky because each state has their own laws when it comes to bullying and what warrants school or criminal sanctions or both. For example, Massachusetts’ legislation requires all schools to have a bullying policy and that cyberbullying, harassment via electronic communication devices and bullying off campus all warrant school sanctions, according to the Cyberbullying Research Centre; whereas, Montana does not even have a bullying law.
Currently in Georgia, schools are required to have a bullying policy and electronic harassment constitutes bullying; off campus and cyber bullying are proposed but the House of Representatives has yet to vote. House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams supports changes to the legislation. “Cyberbullying really goes beyond the four walls of the school or the four corners of the campus, because if you use a cell phone, PDA or social media site, then those activities follow the child both into the school and out of the school. It’s important for the state to really get ahead of this,” stated Abrams (Source: Associated Press).
Alex and her parents are collecting petition signatures to encourage Georgia’s House to adopt the proposed amendments to its current bullying law.
What do you think? Should schools be responsible for punishing bullies for their acts off campus or online? Should bullying between classmates be considered criminal in more than just the 11 states that currently classify it as so? Do these questions intrigue you, inspire you… are they representative of a career in which you are striving for? If so, consider a public policy degree or a political science degree to become a future policy analyst, lawmaker, lobbyist or more.