North Carolina prepares ban on student bullying of teachers

A new North Carolina law that takes effect Dec. 1 prohibits students from bullying teachers on social media, expanding protections for young people and parents passed three years ago.

But as state media point out, the law, apparently the first of its kind, has raised free-speech concerns because of what critics contend are undefined terms.

The School Violence Prevention Act of 2012 makes it illegal for students to post something “with the intent to intimidate or torment a school employee.” Banned postings include manipulated photos of teachers, creating fake profiles or websites, posting personal or sexual information, or signing up a teacher for pornographic sites or junk mail, the Raleigh News & Observer notes. The misdemeanor charge sets a $1,000 fine or up to 60 days in jail.

One in five teachers reports having been harassed online or knowing another teacher who was, the Fox affiliate says.

But the ACLU sees danger.

“Without definitions of ‘torment’ or ‘intimidate,’ it’s not clear what online activity will violate the law,” Sarah Preston of the state ACLU told the Raleigh newspaper. “It does invite arbitrary enforcement because there’s no clear legal standard.”

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