An organization which advocates for students’ first amendment rights is warning against the kind of anti-bullying law which state lawmakers failed to pass earlier this year. The bill would let school officials take action when students engage in bullying on social media outside of school.
Frank LoMonte, with the Student Press Law Center in Virginia, is keeping track of what he calls “the first generation of anti-bullying laws” across the country. “When all you have is suspension or expulsion, then every problem looks like grounds for suspension or expulsion. And there will be powerful pressure on school administrators to suspend or expel at the first sign of conflict,” LoMonte said.
At the Governor’s Bullying Prevention Summit this week in Des Moines, LoMonte said states are making potentially harmless comments grounds for severe punishment. “That’s what I call the zero tolerance problem,” LoMonte said. “We’ve already been through a catastrophic overreaction problem when it comes to weapons and drugs that have resulted in the suspension of kids for harmless behavior.”
LoMonte says before schools enact zero tolerance for bullying, they need strong appeal procedures for students who are unfairly sanctioned.