“Cyberbullying,” which has been defined by the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) as “similar to other types of bullying, except that it takes place online and through text messages sent to cell phones,” is a pervasive problem that has plagued schools since the rapid rise of social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. The anonymity of the Internet allows users to harass others with impunity, and many young users feel invincible while operating under the guise of pseudonyms and screen names.
Unfortunately, the behavior of cyberbullies, though demoralizing and painful to their victims, may not rise to criminal activity. However, victims of bullying should be aware that there are other legal avenues. Depending on the severity and length of the conduct, civil theories, such as the tort theory of intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), may be a possible theory of relief.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
IIED requires a showing by a plaintiff (the victim of the bullying) that the bully intended to inflict emotional distress, that the conduct of the bully was extreme and outrageous, that the bully’s conduct was the cause of the victim’s distress, and that the emotional distress sustained by the victim of bullying was severe. Because mere insults and threats have not been found to rise to the level of severe conduct, there is a high threshold that must be met to prevail on an IIED claim.
If you or your child has been a victim of cyberbullying, the attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. have extensive experience in education law and are prepared to render advice on school and bullying issues. No student should have to face the humiliation and pain of peer torment. If you are being cyberbullied, keep any emails, IMs, or other communications.
If you have any questions regarding cyberbullying, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.