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Cyberbullying Epidemic: What Can Lawyers Do to Help?

By William Peacock, Esq. on February 28, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw released a survey yesterday: 1 in 12 parents report that their child has been cyberbullied. And a Thomson Reuters whitepaper on cyberbullying trends, released this month as well, reports that only 2 in 5 kids that are cyberbullied will mention it to their parents.

Think about that for a second: sixty percent don't speak up, which makes that 1-in-12 number a drastic understatement of the problem. Of course, we're lawyers. We like to fix things. And we really like to make life hell for those who deserve it.

What can we do?

Push for Federal Legislation

Cyberbullying is currently addressed with a patchwork of state and federal legislation. There are state-based laws, some specifically addressing cyberbullying, others addressing harassment, that can be useful tools for prosecutors once the bullying is reported. Federally, there is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which is handy for addressing instances of hacking.

But there is no federal cyberbullying law. And with the Internet being, well, the Internet, much online bullying will cross local jurisdictional lines. A federal law might be a desirable solution.

One of my most common complaints is about sloppily-drafted statutes written by non-lawyers. Why not crowdsource a proposed law, notice-and-comment style, and let the legal community participate in drafting it? That approach was used with a proposed amendment to the CFAA when Rep. Zoe Lofgren used Reddit to gather public input on her draft legislation before introducing it.

Push Schools to Step In

Even without federal legislation, there are still anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that can be a useful tool in your arsenal. If your client's school is refusing to act appropriately and stop bullying, a well-worded demand letter, citing these laws, may get them moving. After all, nothing quite scares a school like a possible lawsuit.

Push Parents to Step In

And, of course, you don't even have to go federal, or target the school. Back in January, parents of a tormented teen in Texas sued seven of her cyberbullies for libel, and their parents for negligence, reports Yahoo. The parents may not win, but we're willing to bet that the bullies' parents are going to be paying a lot more attention.

Have any other suggestions? Speak up on Facebook.

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