Cyberbullying and the First Amendment

According to the student code of conduct the, bullying is listed as any hostile or unwelcomed conduct meant to demean, or intimidate a victim. Despite the detail in regards to bullying, the district’s has not yet updated their handbook with our cultures Within the school district I am employed, there has not been a great amount of regulations created around cyberspace in regards to bullying. After having spoken with my administrator, she strongly urged that teachers report any instances or occurrences of bullying to their attention immediately. However, since our district does not have concrete regulations on cyberbullying, the only sure way something may be done about the matter is if the exchange happens during school hours and on school property.

However, within the Student Code of Conduct, district wide rules and regulation do exist in regards to how each supporting staff member should create and maintain a safe environment for everyone. The ideal leaning environment should be maintained with the absence of bullying, disruptions, and harassment. Students who demonstrate derogatory behaviors are to always be reprimanded for a referral and hearing with administrators. Depending on the event taking place, there are multiple options that can be used in order to reprimand students. These forms of disciplinary actions include in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, long-term suspension and even expulsion.

With the situation regarding the student being subjected to bullying via a peer’s personal Facebook, they are within rights to voice their opinions and advocate their views according to their First Amendment rights based on their Freedom of Speech and Press. Sadly, utilizing the internet to do so, is not different than them verbally voicing or displaying their thoughts. The child in question may argue their rights to express their opinions and thoughts should be able to thrive without being reprimanded by the school or court of law. Making it so that when a student is to have an opinion regarding a topic or another student, and then proceed to share it on social media platforms, which is the press, they are within their right to express their thoughts despite the feelings of others being effected.

The article Free Speech and Public Schools describes the all of cyberspace as a protected zone for free speech (Center for Public Education, 2006). It then goes on to describe that no matter the level of offense, the first amendment will still continue to protect their opinions and rights. On the other hand, Freedom of speech does not cover or protect accusations and publications at any magnitude. During the Kuhlemeier v. Hazelwood School District, journalism students attending the university published an article that targeted other’s whose parents were had experienced a divorced, young parents and those who were young parents themselves.

The group of journalism students began interviewing their targeted students in order to expose their family matters and publish within their newspaper’s article. After the article was released, administrators made all efforts to protect students’ rights. However, the students did not have permission or the consent of the victim’s parents to publically expose their victim’s family lives. In the end administrators took full action to protect the victim’s rights, starting by having the production the interviews, the any release of information to halt.

In order to properly correct the situation, I would remind the journalism team of their actions being unwarranted and impacted others in ways they won’t be able to understand. Being a teacher, I feel as though my impact on students can go beyond the classroom. My message to them, would be they do not lose their rights to free speech and expression when entering into school. They will always have the right to speak for themselves, petition, or even wear expressive clothing in school. However, because all freedoms come with stipulations, in regards to the education setting, as long as their actions do not interrupt the school environment or violate the district’s policies. To wrap up our conversation, I would explain to them that it is their right to speak as they wish, but not in a way that would be damaging or disrespectful towards their peers.

Reference Page

  1. Caroline County Public Schools. (2018, July). Important Documents – Caroline County Public
  2. Schools. Retrieved from
  3. Center Public Education. (2006, April 5). Free Speech and Public Schools. Retrieved from
  5. Hazelwood School District. vs. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988). (n.d.). Retrieved from
  7. Virginia Department of Education. (2013, October). Model Policy to Addressing Bullying in
  8. Virginia’s Schools. Retrieved from
  9. What is cyberbullying. (2012, March 7). Retrieved from
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