State Legislature Encourages School Districts to Take Affirmative Steps to Prevent Cyberbullying

July 2011

Last week on July 7, 2011, Governor Brown signed AB 746 into law, which broadens the Education Code definition of bullying by electronic acts to specifically include "a post on a social network Internet Web site."  (Ed. Code § 32261(g).)  Bullying, including bullying by electronic acts, may be grounds for suspension or expulsion under Education Code section 48900(r). 

The Legislature’s intent in enacting AB 746 is to encourage school districts to promote, among other things, cyber safety.  The new law recommends that school districts conduct in-services as a means to achieve the promotion of cyber safety among students.  F3 additionally recommends that school districts incorporate the following measures to promote cyber safety in the school community:

  • Imbed a campaign to promote cyber citizenship throughout the school community in back-to-school and school safety materials;
  • Evaluate and update all applicable school policies to include responsible use of new technology; and
  • Implement a mechanism for the school community to anonymously report bullying.

While AB 746 draws school districts’ attention to cyberbullying prevention and social media, it is important to note that students may still retain First Amendment protection for online speech that is not related to a school activity and does not create a substantial disruption to school activities and/or is not reasonably foreseeable to cause a substantial disruption to school activities. 

If a school district is concerned whether an instance of cyberbullying has a sufficient nexus to school to warrant suspension or expulsion without infringing on student First Amendment rights and potentially exposing the school district to liability, the district may want to consider any or all of the following: report the bullying to the police, consult legal counsel, bring in school counselors, involve parents, and/or consider alternative disciplinary measures.

F3 NewsFlash prepared by Gretchen Shipley and Melanie Seymour.
Gretchen is a partner in the F3 San Marcos office.
Melanie is an associate in the F3 Oakland office.

This F3 NewsFlash is a summary only and not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult with legal counsel to determine how this new law may apply to your specific facts and circumstances.  Information on a free NewsFlash subscription can be found at www.fagenfriedman.com.

As part of the E-ducation™ Professional Development Series hosted by ACSA and F3, we offer webinars on various topics.  You can find the information on the ACSA website at http://www.acsa.org/MainMenuCategories/ProfessionalLearning/E-ducation-Series.aspx.

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© 2011 Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP

All rights reserved, except that the Managing Partner of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP hereby grants permission to any client of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP to use, reproduce and distribute this NewsFlash intact and solely for the internal, noncommercial purposes of such client.

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