Law goes after cyber bullying

Those who fight cyber bullying are celebrating passage of a new law that will allow them to go after bullying on social networks that affects school performance. But enforcing the law is going to be tricky, local educators say.

Signed last week by Gov. Jerry Brown, the law “declares that posts made on social network sites are covered under the Education Code anti-bullying provisions and allows school officials to suspend student violators,” according to the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose.

The legislation had bipartisan support, including the vote of Central Coast state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo.

Blakeslee said one of the first contacts he received from his district after being elected to the State Senate last summer was from students and teachers in Cayucos seeking to curb cyber bullying.

“They shared with me how social media sites are being used to threaten and intimidate young people, and how important it is to educate others,” Blakeslee wrote in an email.

Cyber bullying is bullying “through email, instant messaging, chat room exchanges, website posts, or digital messages sent to a cellular phone or personal digital assistant (PDA),” according to Olewus, an online site that fights the behavior.

Cyber bullying has mushroomed into a national phenomenon, and some teens have been driven to suicide because of the online attacks.

Before Campos’ bill, California law allowed for the suspension of a student for bullying, including bullying by electronic acts.

However, Campos wrote, the law did not expressly provide that transmission by posting messages on a social network site is included in the definition of an electronic act — as the new law does.

Even with the new legislation, enforcement is going to be complicated, according to Julian Crocker, San Luis Obispo County superintendent of schools.

Crocker said he will organize workshops in the fall so teachers and principals can deal with the legalities as well as the practical application of the new law.

The key question is, where does a school’s jurisdiction end?

This is an old dilemma for educators, he said, and has come up so often that those in education have a nickname for it — “the going and coming rule.”

Social network bullying generally takes place off campus. Officials must make the case that a particular instance affects what goes on at the school, Crocker said.

But, difficult or not, school officials are gearing up to handle this contemporary, sophisticated method used by some youngsters to pick on others.