The rapid rate in the development of technology has changed the way we operate in our day-to-day lives. It has also opened new doors to methods for children to bully their fellow classmates. One “new form” of bullying that has been growing in frequency and has made appearances in the news is internet violence. Although the Connecticut legislature has not specifically defined internet violence, generally, internet violence includes cyber-harassment and cyber-bullying among other internet-related misconduct, such as spamming and hacking.
Connecticut Laws Protecting Students from Internet Violence
Connecticut has enacted laws addressing harassment and cyber-bullying. Under Connecticut law, it is a crime (called second-degree harassment) to harass or threaten anyone via a computer network. Any person who: a) communicates with another person using a “computer network” (or the U.S. mail or any other form of written communication); b) with the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm the other person and c) in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm. Second-degree harassment is a class C misdemeanor, which may result in a sentence of up to three months in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both.
What qualifies as “cyber bullying”?
Meanwhile, cyberbullying is defined under Connecticut law as “any act of bullying through the use of the Internet, interactive and digital technologies, cellular mobile telephone or other mobile electronic devices or any electronic communications.” Under the definition, the use of email, text messages, live web streams by a student or group of students to ridicule or humiliate another student would be considered cyber-bullying.
Connecticut Anti-Bullying Law
Connecticut passed a general anti-bullying law in 2011, which, as amended, has expanded school staff training, addressed cyber-bullying, devised statewide assessments, and delineated further responsibilities for schools. The Connecticut General Assembly has outlined specific criteria and listed a number of actions that would qualify as bullying, including cyber-bullying. The law redefined bullying as “the repeated use of a written, oral or electronic communication or physical act by one or more students directed at another student within the same school district which:
- physically or emotionally harms the student or damages that student’s property;
- places such student in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself, or of damage to his or her property;
- creates a hostile school environment for that student;
- infringes on that student’s rights at school; or
- substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of the school.”
The Role of the School Administration
Schools are legally obligated to get involved in bullying cases, including those of internet violence, under Connecticut law. In Connecticut, as part of a required safe school climate plan, the local or regional board of education must have a process in place for students to anonymously report to school employees acts of cyber-bullying. Under the statute, “school employees” include a teacher, substitute teacher, school administrator, school superintendent, guidance counselor, psychologist, social worker, nurse, physician, paraprofessional, or anyone who has regular contact with students through the performance of his or her duties. The board must notify parents annually about the process by which students can make such reports.
This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any education matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.
If you are concerned that your child is the victim of internet violence or in-school bullying, contact the experienced education law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com. We have the experience and knowledge you need at this critical juncture. We serve clients in both New York and Connecticut.