What’s Wrong With The Florida Cyber-Bullying Arrests? Everything.

“Bullying, as they are supposed to teach you in school, is when someone uses their superior power to subordinate and humiliate someone weaker than themselves. This is wrong, and it is always wrong.”

The Sheriff of Polk County...wait, no, that's Tom Cruise, searching for pre-criminals in "Minority Report." Well, close enough.

The Sheriff of Polk County…wait, no, that’s Tom Cruise, searching for pre-criminals in “Minority Report.” Well, close enough.

This is a quote from an Ethics Alarms post earlier this year, about a school that forced students to do embarrassing things in a warped effort to discourage bullying. There is a disturbing societal consensus brewing that opposition to bullying justifies all sorts of extra-legal, unethical, excessive, abusive and unconstitutional measures, and there are a dearth of persuasive voices point out that this consensus is dangerous and wrong. Those potential voices are being stilled by a kind of cultural bullying. How can you defend bullies! Look at the victims! Think of the children! What a horrible, unfeeling person you are!

This is the only explanation I can generate for the fact that none of the commentary and media coverage regarding the Florida arrests of a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl on trumped-up charges of “stalking” following the suicide of Rebecca Ann Sedwick pointed out that the arrests were a travesty of the justice system, an abuse of power, child abuse, legally and constitutionally offensive, and, yes, bullying of a different kind.

12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick jumped off a building, allegedly in despair over a barrage of cruel messages and Facebook posts denigrating, insulting and threatening her, primarily from a 14-year old female rival and a 12-year-old former friend, though as many as 15 others were involved. Obviously, this is a tragedy. Her mother has been vocal about the role the cyber-bullying played in her daughter’s death. She is a grieving mother; I understand.

But cruel and mean comments, on Facebook or anywhere else, are not criminal acts; they are constitutional speech. The legal system is supposed to be responsible and dispassionate, and not impulsively arrest people it doesn’t like or the community doesn’t like, twist the laws to teach kids a lesson, or make up crimes as it sees fit after the imaginary crimes were committed. By his statements regarding his reasons for arresting Sedwick’s tween tormenters, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd demonstrated that he is a menace to society, unqualified for office, and a renegade law enforcement officer. The arrests occurred because was incensed that the older girl had posted, on Facebook,…

“Yes ik [I know] I bullied REBECCA nd she killed her self but IDGAF [I don’t give a fuck]”

“We decided, look, we can’t leave her out there,”Judd told reporters. “Who else is she going to torment? Who else is she going to harass? Who is the next person she verbally and mentally abuses and attacks?”

What? That statement isn’t an admission that the girl killed Rebecca. It admits two facts, as well as a lack of empathy and remorse, none of which constitutes a crime or the  admission of a crime. As for the sheriff announcing his embrace of the concept of pre-crime, someone needs to tell him, preferably in an exit interview, that he’s not Tom Cruise, and can’t arrest people to stop them from what he thinks they might do. In this case, it isn’t even pre-crime. He’s arresting a girl because she’s mean, and is likely to keep being mean. He has no authority to do that, nor should he have. Imagine who law enforcement could arrest if Judd’s standards prevailed. Luckily, they are banned by the Constitution, which may not apply in Winter Haven, Florida…at least when folks are worried about the children. Wait—the victims of this extra-legal abuse of fairness and due process are children too? Never mind, never mind…they’re just awash with horror in Polk County, so they make up laws on the spot.

That’s not all that’s outrageous with this case:

  • The fact that the dead girl’s mother says that her daughter was driven to suicide by the bullying doesn’t mean she was, though you wouldn’t know this from the media reports. Millions of kids have been bullied through the centuries, and only a tiny percentage have failed to get through the experience alive. Obviously there were reasons why this episode ended in suicide, and at this point, only the parent’s opinion suggest that no other factors were involved.
  • At least two of the cruel comments directed at Rebecca suggested that she do harm to herself. This is not murder. This is not attempted murder. This is not an illegal threat. This is meanness, and nothing else. If you tell someone to kill herself and she does, you have not committed a crime. We can not criminalize childhood hazing or legally smooth rough experience of learning how to deal with jerks. Kids have been telling other kids to eat a bug, jump out a window or drink bleach and die for as far back as human memory reaches. It’s not nice, and it hurts, and sometimes it gets out of control, but it cannot be criminalized in a democracy.
  • Rebecca’s parents are shifting accountability to children when they should be accepting it themselves. Their daughter was being bullied online and they knew it—why did they allow her to keep going online? They pulled her out of school to protect her from in-school bullying, but they wouldn’t keep her from reading messages that were making her miserable. That’s crazy. Protecting a child from bullying in school is the school’s responsibility; protecting a child from bullying out of school is the job of parents. If Rebecca was getting beaten up every time that she went to a locale, presumably the parents would order her not to go there. Why did they allow her to keep returning to the cyber-source of her abuse? Whatever the reason, it was a factor in her death, if indeed the bullying triggered the suicide.
  • Someone cannot turn someone else’s non-criminal act into a criminal one by choice. Suicide does not turn cruelty into a crime, unless the cruelty was part of a genuine intent to kill.
  • I do not believe that an adult could be arrested for what either girl wrote or said if the suicide were also an adult. In general, the criminal law recognizes that juveniles are young, irresponsible and irrational, and exercises restraint regarding their misconduct. By arresting the girls, Polk County authorities are holding young teens to a tougher standard. That is indefensible. Imagine if we arrested adults for saying and writing cruel things….
  • It seem clear that the parents of the two girls were not properly or responsibly monitoring their children’s conduct. They might have civil liability, though not surprisingly, the rogue sheriff is trying to trump up some crime for them too.

The parties that are now acting like children in this case are local law enforcement and the community, getting hysterical with grief and sympathy, lashing out, misusing the justice system to “send a message” and assuaging guilt and anger by abusing two young girls, abandoning core democratic principles, like due process and free speech, to show that it cares, and that because something should have been done, it is doing something. That something can most charitably be called “locking the barn door after the horse has escaped,” but more correctly called legal bullying and the abuse of power.

I believe that the well-meaning efforts to curb bullying will do far more harm to U.S. society than bullying itself has ever done, and this case is a perfect example.

________________________

Facts: CBS 1, 2; USA Today

Source: 10 News

193 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With The Florida Cyber-Bullying Arrests? Everything.

  1. “Obviously there were reasons why this episode ended in suicide, and at this point, only the parent’s opinion suggest that no other factors were involved.”

    Primary reason this episode ended in suicide: the girl had not developed (read as had not been taught or disciplined with) any coping mechanisms or self-assertion habits. Where would she have appropriately gained these habits of successful people? Mom, dad…care to answer?

    My son and daughter are going to be taught to confront bullies (at appropriate levels, depending on the type/method of the bully) and give their words no mind. If the bully is a physical brute, my children will be fully empowered to fight back. If the school system wishes to punish them for defending themselves, the school system can be damned–but my children will not be acculturated into the emasculated mindset of “appeal to the central authority for your succor when something immediate can and should be handled by the individual”.

    • “Primary reason this episode ended in suicide: the girl had not developed (read as had not been taught or disciplined with) any coping mechanisms or self-assertion habits. Where would she have appropriately gained these habits of successful people? Mom, dad…care to answer?”

      OH! TEX! You sadist! You bully! You just “Kanged” an innocent, dead girl’s parents!

      Now, I can’t get the image out of my head of a “motivational” poster-sized photo, showing the girl’s grave, with her parents next to it grieving and wiping tears, and the caption:
      “Another Teen Suicide – So, Mom and Dad, What’s YOUR Excuse?”
      (plus “Copyright 2013, Cynicus Maximus Motivation Enterprises”)

      • Of course the parents aren’t at fault. The person who kille themselves is at fault. We all inevitably gain personality problems because our imperfect parents can’t get everything right in raising us. As parents we can only hope to instill in our children the main character traits for having a happy and successful life. Although our parents cannot develop is into perfect individuals, the problem is still ours, not our parents.

        I’m not sure how this relates at all to the Kang poster. You see, the parents have assigned blame wholly on the bullies. As long a they want to assign blame to externalities, they need to assess what handful of actions they could have done and habits they could have instilled to create a resilient teenager that wasnt susceptible to having their ego completely annihilated.

        I had a friend who constantly blamed her divorced parents, an emotionally absent father and martyr-mentality mother, for all her woes in life. I finally had to be blunt, part of why we aren’t friends anymore and inform her that blaming her parents isn’t going to suddenly convince nature or society to bend over backwards to ensure her every need is handled. Her supposed problems may originate from her childhood, but they are still hers to deal with, and no one else’s.

        • “I’m not sure how this relates at all to the Kang poster.”

          Then I’m not sure at all why you said: “Primary reason this episode ended in suicide: the girl had not developed (read as had not been taught or disciplined with) any coping mechanisms or self-assertion habits. Where would she have appropriately gained these habits of successful people? Mom, dad…care to answer?”

          I agree that the dead girl’s parents are desperately seeking scapegoats – exhibiting the all too commonplace, sometimes delusional, sometimes cynically exploitative promotion of the fraudulent presumption that a person with maximum culpability for her own death (their suicidal daughter) was the most purely innocent of her own death. I understand, by what you said, that you are additionally holding her parents, and their parenting, at least in part accountable for her death, while their scapegoat-seeking behavior at least suggests that they, for whatever reasons, deem themselves also utterly blameless.

          From there, the meaning of the slogan on the Kang poster seems to me like a packaging of the same challenge you seemed to express with “Mom, dad…care to answer?” but only in a different context (that is, in context of a poster-reader’s physical fitness, instead of a dependent’s suicide).

          From there, I joined in agreement with you by expressing mock indignation, as if trying to shame you: “OH! TEX! You sadist! You bully! You just “Kanged” an innocent, dead girl’s parents!”

  2. I was fully supported by my parents to fight back if I were physically bullied, but one of the most important lessons I learned in my teens was that you don’t (and can’t) always need to “win” against a bully. The realization that the voices calling me a loser, fat, teacher’s pet, nerd, freak, faggot couldn’t actually DO anything to me, and that I could respond with “Thanks, and go f**k yourself” and then go on about my business.

    I wonder how much social media is contributing to modern teens’ inability to acknowledge that some people are jerks and not worth their time. I don’t think that teh facebooks are inherently evil, but for young teens it’s a constant barrage of social feedback that either validates or dehumanizes you. When facebook etc are a fundamental part of “real life,” it’s hard to see it as an option to just walk away. I don’t know what the answer is, I’m just glad that I had a solid foundation of not caring before beign exposed to the full wrath of bored asshole teenagers on the internet.

  3. Facebook offers the option to block people. Why was this not used? Personal responsibility is honestly the most important item here.

    • yeah i don’t understand how people can get to you on the internet unless the person allows it. All the sites allow for blocking, including e mail

    • Facebook offers the option to block people. Why was this not used? Personal responsibility is honestly the most important item here.
      **************
      Exactly.
      I also hope that after her first suicide attempt, this young lady was receiving professional help.

  4. Sociopaths like the (wrongly arrested but wow, she’s evil) tween bully here are the reason we can’t have nice things, like the Internet.

    “We can’t have nice things” in fact, is what most of the conflicts in the news, being argued about by lefties and righties, seem to be boiling down to.

    A crazy person kills a bunch of people with a gun. Watch out hilbillies! Now Obama has a reason to take away your hunting toys. For the children. What’s that? ANOTHER shooting in DC? How long until you hillbillies give us all your guns? Are you just going to let this keep happening?

    Corporations cut corners, disregard customers, or outright steal? Suddenly, capatalism/free markets aren’t the best-known economic atmosphere anymore. Let’s try socialism some more! That works, right? Occupy everything! Put the government in charge. You can’t trust anyone else!

    Parents neglect and abuse children? Why do we let these poor people keep having children? Can’t we make a law against that? Or at least rubber-stamp more government oversight into how parents raise their kids. That’s sure not to lead to any outrageous abuses of power, right?

    News reporters are dishonest and twist the truth? Abandon the lamestream media and Faux news, everyone! From now on we’ll get our news from YouTube conspiracy-videos made by some guy at his Mom’s house. We’ll be much better off because that guy isn’t a slave to the corporate power, man!

    Teachers are crooked pervs? Screw school, that’s just how the government brainwashes people anyway. Politicians are crooked pervs? Screw voting, they’re all the same and your vote doesn’t count. Ministers are crooked pervs? Screw church. Your parents divorced? Screw marriage, it’s just a piece of paper.

    Video game manufacturers can’t muster the decency to stop making addictive killfests aimed directly at immature, horny teenagers? Video games are evil!

    Entertainment/pop music moguls can’t muster the decency to stop pushing hedonistic torture-porn movies and dumb club music aimed directly at immature, horny teenagers? Well, I guess we’ve got to go Tipper Gore on these guys.

    When you look at all the misery, abuse, and death made possible by idiots getting drunk, it’s a wonder no one wants to ban alcohol. Oh, wait, they tried that once already.

    Every single thing on earth that is A) good and/or functional and B) requires some measure of responsibility and restraint to use, is under the gun now in some way or another. Whether by erosion due to popular disillusionment (marriage, democracy) or by outright legal assault (guns). The idiots and ethically bankrupt are going to cost us all of our nice things.

    This is why thise old, irrelevant people complain about “moral decay” and “values” only to be mocked and vilified for it by the popular culture. But they were, and are, right. A free society just doesn’t work if people aren’t actively trying to be good, responsible citizens. It’s why Madison insisted that we have “staked our future, not on government” but on our ability to live “according to the Ten Commandments.”

    If that moral foundation goes away, we either lose all of our nice things and become a police state, or trash and abuse all of our nice things and become a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Both of those outcomes are unnaceptable

      • Insulting? Did I say anything about insults? I think not. I said bullying. There is a huge difference. So you can take your strawman arguments somewhere else because they won’t fly here.

        • No, it isn’t different. What you consider an insult might be taken as bullying by someone else. Your intent doesn’t matter, only what others perceive.

          So you are staking your liberty that you will always be able to trust those in power. Would you trust me to decide what counts as bullying?

          If not, why would you trust anyone else?

          Never give yourself power you would not trust your opponents with.

          • Intent should always matter when it comes to crime. I would never suggest that the state should not be required to prove intent (with perhaps the exception of criminal negligence)

            I think you have given me plenty of reasons to trust you much less than anyone else, especially when it comes to bullying and your opinions of it.

            I agree with your final statement.

    • Bullying should not be considered protected speech. Emotional harm is still harm and intent to do emotional harm shouldn’t be waved off as trivial.
      ************
      I guess the thought is where is the line between free speech and harassment.

      • When that speech intentionally causes real harm to someone else. When the speech is not simply to state an opinion but to ruin someone’s life.

    • “Butthurt in the first degree” is not and should never be a crime, you sniveling little pile of shit. The day saying mean things becomes a crime is the day I snap and find the nearest fucking bell tower.

      • “butthurt” is a stupid term and you should really stop using it.

        I am not talking about “saying mean things”. That you think this is what I am talking about proves how small your intellect really is.

          • Tell whomever you wish. It is not only dumb but it also seems to be mocking rape and may very well be homophobic as well.

            I would expect no less from you AMS. You are a despicable person and have no business posting on an ethics board.

            • You know what, I’m going to go the fuck ahead and say it…

              Fuck you, you fucking little cunt.

              I have physically stood in front of a gay student in my high school who was being harassed.

              I have all but come to blows defending a gay guy at a bar (that it didn’t happen was not due to a lack of desire on my part, but the intervention of a bouncer).

              I have donated time and treasure to GOProud.

              I have loudly advocated for civil unions to be the only thing the government used for tax and legal purposes, leveling the field for ALL unions (and still leaving “marriage” there if anyone wants it, just find a church that will do it).

              I have VERY publicly and at great cost to my personal reputation and standing anyone associated with the ACU or NOM, including a very nasty post on another blog).

              And you fucking call me a homophobe? You worthless pile of shit, who the precise fuck do you fucking think you are?

              I don’t fuckin’ care if you like the term. It has been around for over a decade as a word to describe

              An inappropriately strong negative emotional response from a perceived personal insult. Characterized by strong feelings of shame. Frequently associated with a cessation of communication and overt hostility towards the “aggressor.”

              And that, you sniveling little turd, isn’t just what you want to make the basis of a criminal complaint, but what you your post was nothing but.

              Now go fuck yourself.

              The adults are talking.

              • I said the term may very well be homophobic. A little testy are we? Methinks you doth protest too much.

                The term implies some sort of anal raping. I have friends who use it and I am critical of them for using it as well.

    • I’m sure even if Liberal Dan hasn’t intentionally insulted anyone, the government could easily drum something up and arrest him for it anyway. Speech-crimes allow a lot of flexibility like that.

      Dan won’t mind, being in favor of entrusting the State to regulate speech, he’d happily submit to their judgement.

      • Since you are erecting strawmen, I guess I could say that you support no government regulation of speech. Screaming fire in a crowded theater is A-OK with you, right? Speaking out and convincing people to riot, that is cool too. Right? And conspiring to kill someone is just speech too, right? I mean, If you don’t actually cause physical harm then there can be no real harm, right?

        Back to reality for a second. Your right to swing your first stops right before it hits my face. That, of course, is both true literally and figuratively. Your ability to use your rights stops when it infringes on my ability to use mine. And before you start with more ridiculous there is no right to not be offended. But a child has the right to attend school and get an education. A child has the right to be at the school or participate in school activities just like every other one without being bullied, intimidated, threatened or otherwise harmed.

        If a kid in school doesn’t want to hang out with another kid then that is fine. We also have the freedom to associate with whomever we wish. You want to hold a party and not invite the unpopular kid? Fine. That is cool with me.

        But when it turns from being not hanging out with a kid to purposefully going out and targeting the kid in a harassment campaign (be it in school or on the internet) then the line has to be drawn.

        The kids who intentionally target others and get joy out of causing emotional harm have serious problems, and I would say serious ethical problems. Somewhere along the way their parents failed them. This sadistic behavior should not be applauded, it should be prevented.

        There is also something seriously wrong with any adult who would participate in bullying apologia.

        • You are very childishly trying to have it both ways, Dan. This entire discussion is about hurtful speech on the Internet. That is the form of bullying being discussed. Hurting people with words.

          You replied that “bullying should not be protected speech.” If that is the “straw man” you are referring to, it’s one that you erected yourself an dressed in your own clothes. Cyber bullying, unless it involves genuine threats of physical harm, is not anything like shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre.

          This is the way I remember people arguing back in Middle School. “Oh, you don’t think web-bullying should be a crime? I suppose you are okay with shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre then?”

          Give me a break. If you weren’t talking about insults online, then what conversation did you think you were having?

          • No, the discussion isn’t about “hurtful speech on the Internet”. This discussion is about bullying and that the internet is just another tool of the bully, that bullying causes real harm, and that actions should be taken to punish those who do bully and hopefully it will deter some who would bully away from the behavior.

            I liken the people who believe bullying doesn’t do actual and serious harm to people to those who believe that mental illnesses are not legitimate concerns either. It is ludicrous.

            Some people in this discussion are saying that using the internet is a choice. Well bullying is a choice as well. And it is a choice we should be discouraging people from making.

        • I don’t want to sound like I’m talking down to you like a little kid, but I’m not sure how else to respond to you Dan.

          Let’s take a look at what you’re doing here.

          1. You think that speech that is “bullying” should not be protected by law. Since schools and families already have the right to regulate the behavior and speech of kids, this can only mean that bullying, even when not physical, should be subject to criminal prosecution. Got it.
          2. You insist that you aren’t talking about just insults, because I think you realize how stupid you’d look for trying to criminalize insults. Cyberbully IS generally just a whole lot of insults, though. When people point this out, quite reasonably, you insist that THEY are erecting straw men. You are telling me that you were talking about bullying people with words online…not insults. Ooookay.
          3. In the least-muddled way you can, you describe bullying as a “harassment campaign.” You cannot mean harassment in the legal sense, because that wouldn’t even apply to the worst of the bullying being discussed here (if the bullies had hacked into their victim’s computer and circumvented her attempts to avoid or block them, or violated a restraining order of some kind, that would be different).
          4. You also attempted to describe your preferred legal definition of bullying as intent to ruin a life or cause emotional harm. When concerned others try to point out to you how that DOESN’T WORK as a legal charge and would open up a flood of abuse of the law, you call this a “slippery slope argument.”

          As with the “straw man”, I do not think that “slippery slope” means what you think it does. The slippery slope logical fallacy applies to hypothetical situations that may or may not arise. We ALREADY KNOW that laws against speech lead to frequent abuses by the state. We know that because of centuries of experience of said abuse. Blasphemy laws, for example.
          5. You stooped to the low of calling me a “bullying apologist” for thinking that even cruel speech should no be punished by arrest. That’s just sleazy, Liberal Dan. Your ethics card is revoked. I don’t know if you noticed that I referred to the bully in question as “evil” and suggested multiple punishments not requiring jackboots and tasers. But no, anyone who disagrees with YOUR (dangerous and lazy) solution to the problem is doing “bully apologia.” A despicable snake move.

          • 1) Yes, bullying should be a crime, regardless of what tools the bully uses.
            2) An insult is a tool of the bully. Do you understand the A implies B but B doesn’t imply A concept? Just because a bully will use insults doesn’t mean that every insult is bullying.
            3) Yes, I used different words to try and get it through the thick skulls of some of the individuals here why bullying should be considered criminal and that the 1st amendment shouldn’t be used as a shield to protect the bully.
            4) I call the argument a slippery slope because that is what the argument was. It was argued that if we allow x to happen then y is bound to happen. That is CLEARLY a slippery slope. So attempts to be cute and quote The Princess Bride aside, you are the one who seems to not understand what a slippery slope is.
            5) The “bully apologia” comment was meant generally towards anyone here who makes excuses for bullying. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t try and wear it. It wasn’t a specific labeling of your actions. But for someone who made an outrageous statement about what you believed that I feel about speech laws (you were way off) you sure do cry a lot about other people supposedly doing that to you. Perhaps you should think about that the next time you try and claim you know what someone else believes.

            • Yes, bullying should be a crime, regardless of what tools the bully uses.

              Then you best hope your political opposition never gains power, or else you will be the one who gets to enjoy being arrest for hurtng people’s feelings…

              But people who advocate for totalitarianism never seem to think that far ahead…

            • The thing is though, nobody here actually supports bullying or thinks that you can rationalize it away (especially since most people here seem to have been victims); I think the kindest sentiment expressed for the bullies on this blog was something along the lines of “maybe they don’t deserve to get eaten alive by army ants”. In that case, it really does come off as you thinking that legitimate concerns about free speech restrictions equates being a “bullying apologist”.

              • Well that is not what I feel.

                Legitimate concerns about free speech restrictions should be taken into account if a law was going to be crafted to punish bullies.

                Such a law would likely not catch all bullies, because as I have said the law would likely have to be crafted with a narrow enough scope to pass constitutional muster.

                But there are folks here to do come off as bullying apologists, not because they have legitimate free speech concerns, but because they discount the real emotional harm that bullying causes and they wish to say that it is not the bullies fault that they did so much emotional harm to the person that the person felt that they had no other recourse and no other way to escape that physical pain but to take their own lives.

                  • It is NOT just about making someone feel bad.

                    The only reason you find me staggeringly obtuse is because you either cannot understand what is being said or you refuse to understand what is being said.

        • It’s worth noting that the case that led Justice Holmes to produce the “fire in a crowded theater” quote (Schenck v. United States) was used largely to suppress criticism of US involvement in WWI, and Holmes himself seems to have been unhappy with how broadly the verdict was applied in subsequent cases. We had to wait until Brandenburg v. Ohio to establish that there needs to be a clear danger of “imminent lawless action” in order for inflammatory speech to be prosecutable; you talking about how you’d like to punch ablativmeatshld in the face if you ever met him is (and indeed should be) legally ok (and I know he’d agree with me on this).

          On the other hand, I’ll grant that the USA has established relatively legitimate restrictions that can be imposed towards unsolicited one-to-one speech (even Eugene Volokh accepts the existence of stuff like bans on unwanted phone-calls), but even then, to quote Rowan v. US Post Office Dept., accepting even the most First-friendly versions of these laws do in fact mean that you’ll have to accept that “no one has a right to press even ‘good’ ideas on an unwilling recipient” (And you should be able to see how that principle can be abused if the laws are written too vaguely; what if you call your neighbor to complain about the noise coming outside of his/her home at 2 am, or Boehner to tell him to be a better Speaker?).

          And of course, the Internet blurs the lines anyways due to the fact that online spats tend to take place in venues which are at least semi-public, with both sides trying to score points with bystanders as well as against each other. Therefore, any suitably restrained one v. one restrictions on cyberspeech would only apply to stuff like emails and personal messaging (expanding these restrictions would likely to lead to more shit like the Kimberlin debacle blogged on here a while back); they could still legally be bullies on their own personal pages or on forums or blogs. But that’s part of the reason why the block and perma-ban options already exist (as Jack can attest to).

            • Hence why I said “talking”; hey, if we’re allowed to talk about the theoretical liquidation of all class enemies, your face can endure some phantom punches.

  5. If it is not considered protected speech, then the gate is opened for any speech to be declared bullying by whichever powers that be and inevitably lead to a capricious and horribly inconsistent system. For crying out loud, your entire left wing leadership have been bullying the American people and conservatives in Congress every chance they get. Should that stop legally? It should professionally, but that’s a different issue.

    • For crying out loud, your entire left wing leadership have been bullying the American people and conservatives in Congress every chance they get. Should that stop legally? It should professionally, but that’s a different issue.
      *************
      Good one. 🙂

      • Not true. Slippery slope is sometimes logical fallacy. Sometimes not.

        In this case it isn’t. As long as we have a completely vague definition of “bullying” for in terms of criminalizing it, then you will have abuse and misuse. That is a slippery slope, taken only one level down the slope, and non-fallacious one to boot.

        • You make the fallacious argument that if bullying is not protected, the door gets opened for any speech to be labelled bullying.

          Nobody is suggesting that a law be written based on the comments on a message board. The law would obviously have to be crafted to have a narrow enough scope to pass constitutional muster. As such the law would not be able to be used to label anything spoken as bullying.

          That is why your argument fails.

          • Not so. To outlaw “bullying”:

            you either define precisely what words/actions are bullying… in which case

            1) you get a ridiculously long list to cover EVERYTHING – which is ridiculous and we also call that a police state (a mighty dumb looking police state at that),

            2) you get a ridiculously short list, which through it’s impotence results in disdain for the authorities, general derision over the selection of words/actions, discontent over other non-included items.

            OR

            3) you define the effects on individuals. In which case you get vague nonsense in which an individual bully is found guilty before a trial based solely on if the recipient *feels* bullied.

            In all cases listed above, you get authorities making decisions that fall exactly into what I described as “a gate being opened…. to a capricious and horribly inconsistent system”.

            Try again.

            • OR 4) You define it correctly and punish those who do it. Amazing how someone as obviously as bright as you are couldn’t figure out that fourth one.

              • Yeah…. the 3 options I listed go into the various pathways of “defining it correctly” as you assert so easily.

                “Just do it right” isn’t an answer if you can’t at least get into the specifics of “doing it right”.

                “Just make a law that fixes the medical insurance industry” Can’t be that hard…just make it right…

                Your “option” 4 is a vision (a rather vague vision, but a vision none the less). My listed options are routes to that vision (and awful routes at that, but there aren’t any good routes that don’t have horrible side effects).

              • As I’ve noted in one of my responses to you, the closest precedence for the type of thing you’re looking for that would pass constitutional muster would be SCOTUS’s previous decisions (like Rowan v. Post Office and Frisby v. Schultz) upholding restrictions solely on one-to-one speech (and even then, such a piece of legislation would be restricted in its scope while still toeing close to the wrong side of the line with regards to the First). I’m a little surprised you haven’t mentioned that yourself, actually.

                • And I should note in the two cases I just mentioned, the restrictions were content-neutral, applying equally even if you simply wanted to discuss the latest episode of “The Legend of Korra”.

          • Except, Dan, that there is no such language. The speech codes at various colleges have the same problem, and almost none of them pass constitutional muster. Go ahead, try your hand at drafting. You won’t be able to avoid phrases like “feeling threatened” or “causing emotional distress,’ and you can base the law on what the victim chooses to do, if the “bully” didn’t clearly intend and work toward that result. Making people feel bad about themselves isn’t a crime. Even libel and slander aren’t crimes, and shouldn’t be. Everything can’t be solved by a law—that’s your fatal ideological bias. Sometimes, people just have to learn why they should be fair and kind, and then learn how to do it. For most of us, including these girls, that’s called “growing up.”

            • I am not a legislator nor would I draft the law by myself if it was. It is disingenuous to suggest that because I have not presented the precise language that the bill would contain that it cannot be written.

              A law would clearly require intent.

              It is also disingenuous for you to suggest that I believe “everything” can solved by a law. I do not believe that at all. But there ARE THINGS THAT ARE SOLVED BY LAW. So your “everything can’t be solved by law” is an intellectually weak retort and I expect much more from you.

              I go back to assault. Why is assault a crime? It is because physical harm is not the only kind of harm that exists.

              • You’re whining. The delusion that conduct like bullying is can be eradicated by legislative mind and speech control is symptomatic of statists who do believe that most human problems can be solved by state power—obviously “everything” is hyperbole–no, I didn’t think you believe that we can change the tides by edict. Hate crimes are another example.

                So bullying laws would depend on motive, eh? Then a kid who writes “You’re ugly and I hate you” but is just lashing out because he’s 12 would be fine, but one who writes exactly the same thing but really wanted to cause the recipient psychic pain would be thrown in the clink. Terrific. The most experienced drafter in the country couldn’t get that one past SCOTUS.

                • I don’t expect that bullying would be eradicated. But I do think that the most extreme forms of bullying can be punished and perhaps that punishment could act as a deterrant to prevent more types of that kind of bullying.

  6. Young teen girls can be very cruel to each other… Sometimes that’s worse than a physical confrontation…

    Don’t think it’s fair to blame the parents because teens hide their problems… I was bullied my freshmen year by dog owners of all people…lol… They would release their dogs when I ran down the street by their houses… I got even with the dogs even though it was the owners that should have gotten sprayed… After I fixed those dogs, guess what no more bullying…

    • Don’t think it’s fair to blame the parents because teens hide their problems…
      *****************
      In this case the girl’s parents knew exactly what was going on and they still allowed her to be on Facebook, where all of the bullying was taking place.
      This girl already had one botched suicide attempt under her belt and she was attending a new school.
      I read one news article today where the mother said she didn’t restrict the girl’s internet use because “I wanted her to like me”. @@
      When you are that stupid, I don’t know, there is no recourse.

      As for the bullies, the evidence of what they did is out there for all to see.
      Now the father of one says his daughter is a good girl and the nasty comments were put up by a hacker. @@
      Again, stuck on stupid.

      • Just about every high school kid has a smart phone — so while I agree that parents need to do a better job policing online activities, there is no way to keep a kid from reading Facebook. Don’t forget that every library and school has computers now as well. Also, I think it is natural for any teenager to be concerned about what is being posted on Facebook, so I don’t blame the girl for looking.

            • Then you borrow a friend’s phone – or go the library.
              *************
              Look, this kid already had one suicide attempt that resulted in a hospitalization.
              Allegedly due to bullying.
              A parent worth anything, under those circumstances, DOES WHATEVER IT TAKES to keep the kid off of Facebook.
              Up to and including extreme measures because THE CHILD’S LIFE WAS AT STAKE.
              She was a troubled young girl who needed her parents to step up and do what was necessary.
              Now the girl is dead, there will be no more chances to save her life because her mother was too fecking stupid to find a way to keep her off of Facebook.
              Finished. Over. DEAD.
              Stellar parenting!!!!!!!!!!!!

            • And then it is your responsibility. Are you making a cyber “stand your ground” argument—that the victim of abusive web posts has no obligation to retreat so as not to be harmed by them? I was recently being trashed in the most offensive terms on various theater Facebook pages regarding my statements regarding a local theater pandering to the Trayvon Martin mythologizers People kept writing me saying “you should read what they’re saying about you! It’s horrible!” My reaction: What do I care? And why would I want to read hurtful and vicious comments? If I kept reading the comments, was reduced to despair and killed myself, would the Jack-trashers be guilty of a crime because I couldn’t resist reading the insults?

              • Jack, there is a quote by Abraham Lincoln about dealing with vicious and malicious critics. It is relevant here, and validates your handling of criticism of you; I just can’t find it right now.

                • “If you viciously and maliciously criticize my ideas, I will invade you with hordes of blue clad soldiers. And regardless of each army you dispatch in shame, I will send another. Don’t criticize me man.”

                  -Abraham “The Union Man” Lincoln

                  • (I think that was from the Stephen Douglas debates).

                    Shortly after Appomattox, he was heard to say “They didn’t listen to me then, well f*** them. See what happens?”

                    • “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business.”

                      Abraham Lincoln (who did not live for very long after Appomattox)

                    • Fine, if you want valid quotes.

                      Of course, years from now someone can copy paste my quotes here and attribute them to Lincoln, since found on the internet, it must be true.

                    • Hi Tex – I apologize if I seemed to brush off or not appreciate “your” Lincoln quotes. Those had me giggling for the better part of an hour.

                      Perhaps amazing, is that your 5:59 comment above reflects very much the same mischief I have been contemplating since early yesterday – even before Jack’s post about Facebook and its many gullible users: Setting up a Facebook page called “Hints from [I won’t say the name, just in case I go through with it, so that no one steals my fun].” The idea is to spoof “Hints from Heloise” with little “tips” like, for example: If you sprinkle just 1/32 of a teaspoon of cinnamon on each eyeball once daily, you’ll never get cancer.

                      I have done mischief like that before. Back in the ’90s, I did one that I consider my masterpiece, but dare not describe here, lest I reveal my identity to many more than Jack. I will say, it involved Al Gore.

                    • No biggie. If my jokes are funny they’re funny, if not, then I don’t care…I laughed.

                      Your pranks are elaborate… I’ll just stick with low brow ones like freezing a can of shaving cream and opening it up. Then placing the block of frozen shaving cream in some unsuspecting individual’s work space or sock drawer.

                      I do regret that one prank where I voted for Obama over 100 times in a swing county in Ohio this past go around…

                    • PS I am not stupid enough to think I can set up a Facebook page for pranking Hints from Heloise, without my identity becoming widely known – if not via Facebook, then at least via a few courtrooms.

              • Have you lost your mind? Are you really trying to make this analogy? Maybe if you have the wits and maturity of a 12 year-old, I’d consider it.

                • I was just asking. Because if you are not claiming that a child shouldn’t have to avoid confronting or reading the communications of online bullies before she kills herself, then you have no argument. Neither the victim nor her tormenters have the wits and maturity of an adult, and they should be judged on that basis, as I have said elsewhere in this thread. If an adult is posting this kind of offal about a child—fine, make that a crime. Not between children.

  7. Stalking and harassment are crimes however. And that it was they are being charged with. The sheriff seems to think they have enough evidence to prove their case. I guess will see.

    • They can prove no elements of either crime. Stalking and harassment are not typically done by kids—kids fight—or through social networking–it’s a bogus charge. Phone calls have to be answered—nobody made the girl log on social networks.

      And note that the sheriff didn’t base his arrest on the elements of the crime, but assumed them after a Facebook post that was irrelevant to either crime.

        • A prosecutor has to have the elements and a good faith belief that they can be proven with admissible evidence—if he or she is ethical, that is. Prosecutors often are not, and are swayed by public opinion…like in the Duke lacrosse case. School yard confrontations and social network trash-talk have virtually never been criminalized…if the girl was assaulted and beaten, that’s a crime, not talking about it. You do not want prosecutors using the state’s power like this. It will not end well.

  8. This article is unbelievable. I’m so glad those two girls were arrested and yes, sorry but this whole bullying thing is out of hand and way worse then we were kids. This sad belief if we just “confront” the bully and all will be good, respect will be earned, etc. is completely ludicrous and outdated. Perhaps this works for the “male schoolyard bully” but girls bully a lot differently then boys do. Please educate yourself, and pick up a copy of “odd girl out” by Rachel Simmons. It delves into why girls bully and believe me, a simple confrontation in the school yard will not make the problem go way. I actually think we should go one step further and make it illegal for kids under sixteen to have cell phones and access to social media. Obviously they can’t handle it.

    • Heather, are you familiar with the essential concept that in a free country we don’t just arrest people because we don’t like what they did? Actual laws, fairly interpreted, are required. What the girls did was wrong, but neither uncommon nor “unbelievable.” What was uncommon was their victim’s reaction to it. That doesn’t make a crime materialize where there was none before.

      • I don’t think the victim’s reaction was all that uncommon. There seems to be a bullying/suicide story every week. As far as I know, cyberbullying stalking is illegal in florida, hence their arrest.

    • Confronting bullies is outdated? Since when is self-assertion against bad people out dated? That’s ridiculous, yet indicative of the cowering and emasculated attitude being engendered in America these days.

      Confrontation doesn’t always make the problem go away, but it often does, and it always makes a valuable point for others to stand up, and eventually the otherwise cowering ‘good people’ will inevitably and in a separate but cooperative way finally shut out the bad people. It takes time. Do nothing but hoping some inept central authority will solve the problem will accomplish nothing.

      • Wait—did Heather really say that??? I missed it. ARRRRGHHH! Am I being paranoid to think that this is Obama’s wishy-washyism becoming viral, that a civilized nation now doesn’t confront bullies, it just allows the UN to set sanctions, and hopes for third party mediation? Is our society really becoming that cowardly and foolish?

        Yes, individualism, standing up for yourself and not wanting to be a victim IS outdated is some parts of the culture. Has anyone considered that if bullying really is on the rise, it is the lack of confrontation that has caused the increase?

        My Dad, growing up in the depression, went to something like 12 schools. In every single one, he said, one or more bullies picked on and harassed him. Every time, he fought or offered to fight the bullies, and, he said, usually got the snot kicked out of him…but was never, never bullied again after that, not once. “Bullies don’t like to have to fight…it’s no fun, and they know they look bad beating up a kid that is smaller and weaker,” he said. Refuse to be bullied, and they stop bullying you. Sometimes, the bullies became good friends.

        • Lol…I actually didn’t say that we shouldnt confront bullies…said that thinking that it was niave to assume that alone would end it. I also am from Canada so the whole obama hatred has no bearing in my interest in this story. My interest lies in the fact that I have school age kids and can’t imagine this happening to them.

          • Then your assertion is a strawman. No one said single confrontation alone will always stop a bully.

            Since I made the assumption that you weren’t creating a strawman (my mistake), I addressed your assertion appropriately. But since you did make a strawman argument, my bad.

            Confrontation, especially as more good people do stand up, will go A LONG way to stopping it, or at least marginalizing it.

          • It can’t happen to them because you are a responsible parent and wouldn’t let it happen to them, presumably.
            “Obama hatred” has nothing to do with anything being discussed. Leaders mold and change cultural attitudes. Current US leaders embrace a victim-oriented culture, with victims being treated as passive and without options, and statist solutions—except internationally, where they support non-confrontation with entities that will keep doing wrong until they are confronted.

            No wonder parents can’t puzzle out how to handle mean 12-year-olds.

    • Illegal for kids under 16 to have cell phones? So if parents feel that cell phones allow them to get a hold of their children quickly, or say, a child in distress to get a hold of their parents quickly… tough luck… big brother knows what’s best?

      Typical leftist answer “we should go one step further and make it illegal”.

      • Yes, because no one could survive without a cell phone! How did we make it through childhood without mom and dad being able to reach us every second of the day!

        • Not your call to make you progressive social engineering guru.

          My children won’t get cell phones for a long time, maybe even only a loaner when they go out until they are on their own. But I’m not going to be arrogant enough to tell other parents that they can’t raise their children as they see fit.

  9. Boys fight with their fists — girls do with words. If a boy hits another kid and he falls and hits his head on the concrete, it is quite possible that murder or manslaughter charges would be brought. And that is an unintended result. If a girl deliberately engages in repeated and escalated pattern of abuse with the goal of her victim intentionally harming herself, can we really say that no crime was committed?

    • Very good point. It’s funny, a few people on this blog mentioned that Rebecca commited suicide because she had emotional issues or didn’t know how to deal with bullies, yet we are talking about a 12 year old. Should a child that age be savy enough to deal with up to apparently 15 people harassing her for an extended period of time? Sorry, but I would have a hard time with that. It’s also a joke that we seem to think if we confront the bully, all will be well, just like some cheesy after school special. Maybe these girls do need to be made an example of for the greater good. Sad but true. If more kids thought that they could actually be arrested for this type of harassment, then maybe they would at least think twice.

      • If more parents remembered how vicious middle/high schoolers were, maybe things would be better. I remember the well-intentioned advice to say “STOP THAT, it bothers me,” and thinking it was stupid even then.

        The lesson kids need to learn isn’t that if they’re not nice the police will get them. The lesson is that the world is full of not nice people, and as long as they’re not your boss or someone else you have to be nice to you’ve got to realize that all they can do is talk.

            • good one.. you really put me in my place..and it’s not just mean words, it’s a little more then that, but anyone who calls someone a cunt is totally ignorant and wouldn’t get that.

              • Ethics Alarms does not endorse the use of that abusive term, but I take responsibility for allowing it here, with the admonition that it is ill-advised, and I would not want the use of such invective to become the norm. Since you obviously aren’t intimidated and can handle your own responses, I’ll keep out of this, but AMS is capable of perceptive commentary, and I’m assuming eventually his rebuttal will return to that strength.

                That said–what the girls said, in teenage terms, was exactly mean speech, just words, and nothing more.

                • Not intimidated at all…think it’s kind of funny actually. If someone can’t handle a difference of opinion, it’s not my problem. Just wondering where the line is drawn between mean speech and harassment? We have sexual harassment laws in place, which a lot of times are just words, do you disagree with that?

                  • I teach and consult on sexual harassment. That’s a workplace issue, where employers and supervisors make it impossible to work and take advantage of economic vulnerability to make sexual overtures or abusive comments. I think it’s a bad legal solution, but an unfortunately necessary one. Kids do stuff to and with each other every day that would be workplace harassment. You want to outlaw flirting is school? Make kissing a crime?

                    A supervisor or boss has a continuing relationship of power over a harassment victim. Not so mere fellow students. A teacher sending such abusive messages to a student? That’s a better analogy.

                    • Not sure about that being a better analogy..often sexual harassement in the work place could be a case of two coworkers in the same position, one not having power over the other, just like kids at school.

                    • Yes BUT…the harassment has to be allowed, encouraged or not sufficiently prohibited and warned against for it to get damages from the employer in such cases, and the company’s proper response to such harassment is dismissal, not arrest. Sexual harassment by a co-worker is not a crime.

                • I believe Ablative is showing just how bullying speech is completely uncriminal. Completely. Oh wait, unless Heather decides to off herself. Then somehow that makes the bullying criminal.

                  Unless then we decide to make all ‘bullying’ speech criminal regardless of victim outcome….in which case we get to live in a capricious system in which the whim of the authorities decides what is “bullying” and what isn’t.

                  What? You called ObamaCare “slavery”. That’s bullying speech, off to jail with you. No, no, calling the conservatives terrorists and hostage takers and haters of old people and racists…no that isn’t bullying…

                  Allowing bullying speech is not perfect, but it is far more optimal than disallowing certain speech that is completely undefinable and wholly based on emotional impact.

                  • The difference is that I’m a grown up so I can handle it. It also helps that I don’t have to work with or see what’s his face on a regular basis….oh and he doesn’t have 15 friends “coming after ” me as well…and the fact that his vocabulary consists of cunt, shit and simpering is more laughable then scary.

                    • The difference isn’t “I’m a grown up”. The difference is “I can handle it”. Age makes no difference in being able to handle something or not. If that were the case, we’d have kids offing themselves by the millions every time someone looked at them sneeringly. However, “I can handle it” is an awful awful awful measure to decide if hurt feelings are the difference between the feelings-hurter being a criminal or not. Ignoring of course that speech is not a crime.

                • No there was at least one physical confrontation as well. We don’t have all the details. People can be arrested and charged for just words posted on social media based on the intent or apparent intent of the poster. I don’t know if what the girls did warrants jail time or not, that’s for the courts to decide.

                  • Yes, I know kids CAN be charged, wrongly, excessively, unethically, undemocratically, just as Jason Collins was charged, just as tin god, power-abusing authoritarian incompetents like the sheriff in this case charged, have charged and will charged in other outrageous example of police over-reach, but in the democracy we are supposed to have, people have a lot of leeway in their private conversation, just as the Constitution intended and guarantees,and mere threats, without more, and insults, especially when they are uttered by children to children, are not the proper realm of the state or law enforcement..and the people who argue otherwise I regard as the enemy of my own freedoms, future generations, and the nation.

          • Because there are laws against those crimes, and “extreme bullying” has no definition when applied to non-physical conduct, like speech. Kids said equally mean thing to me as a teen—I laughed in their faces, made jokes about it, and generally either won them over or made them feel silly by persisting. Was I not bullied because I was able to handle it? What kind of crime can be made into one, or not, by the response of the victim? Can you not see how “anti-bullying” could easily become flat out private speech censorship?

          • When does the bullying become a crime?

            Is it when the names are called, or mean things are said? If so, then we will have someone determining what it is we can and can’t say, where the line is drawn between “extreme” bullying and common, harmless bullying, and that line will be subject to that person’s biases and sensitivity, which in this day and age would probably quickly escalate to anything mean at all is an arrestable offense. Also it would end up being used to censor ideas that the person or people in charge don’t like, under the label of “bullying” or “meanness”.

            …Or is it when the victim commits suicide? If it is, then you would be punishing someone for another’s conduct, which is just stupid and wrong in a multitude of ways.

      • It’s funny, a few people on this blog mentioned that Rebecca commited suicide because she had emotional issues or didn’t know how to deal with bullies, yet we are talking about a 12 year old.
        ************
        I mentioned it because I think this little girl had other emotional problems (depression and who knows what else) that made it that much more important that her parents protect her.
        For crying out loud, she already tried to kill herself once over Facebook and yet, her mother failed to restrict her access to it. That just defies logic.

        • Yes, her parents letting her get on back on facebook was a really bad idea, but she definatley had emotional issues from the bullying. Actually has been documented that severe bullying can contribute to post tramatic stress syndrome…yes that sounds dramatic but it is a real thing. Maybe another question would be why did the bully’s parents let her go on Facebook? I think they are the failures here as well.

          • Which the post addresses.

            Meanwhile, many, many unpleasant events, non-crimes all, cause post-traumantic stress syndrome. Want to address people for adultery? Breaking a heart? I had a cousin who desperately wanted children, married a woman who then announced that she had secretly had her tubes tied, and left him for a same sex relationship. He was shattered, had a nervous breakdown, and eventually killed himself. Should his ex be arrested? What if she posts, “Yes, I was cruel to Jimmy and he killed himself, and IDGAF!” What if the sheriff fears she will destroy another loving partner (my cousin was a sweet, trusting guy)?

          • . Maybe another question would be why did the bully’s parents let her go on Facebook? I think they are the failures here as well.
            **********
            I guess my feeling on that is there are bad people in the world and as a parent, your job is to protect your kid from them because sometimes, they can’t be stopped.

    • I feel threatened and my feelings are hurt when a college professor says the kids of NRA members should be the next victims of a mass shooting. Can we fire and then arrest that cumstain from KU now?

      • I feel threatened and my feelings are hurt when a college professor says the kids of NRA members should be the next victims of a mass shooting.
        **********
        Yeah, me too.
        Or the time that Sad Excuse For A President visited my home state and found the people there to be “clinging to guns and religion”.
        I have felt bullied by that remark and racially profiled.

    • Very, very bad point.
      Journalists, comedians, and ministers “fight with their words” too. And often cause people all kinds of emotional pain by doing so.

      So, are you in favor of locking up tweens for using hurtful words, but not adults? Or is it only a crime if the victim is young or emotionally fragile? Or is it only a crime if both the perpetrator AND the victim are kids? “Sorry, middle school girl, but we’re going to send you to juvy for a bit. When you’re older, you can get your own show on HBO for doing what you did, but until you turn 18, it’s a crime. Sorry, them’s the berries.”

      So, how do you determine whether “go kill yourself” on Facebook is rhetorical, or genuine intent to cause a suicide? Can we write up a list of words or phrases that should just never be allowed? A list of “banned speech” if you will?
      Maybe there could be a detective agency to prove what a person’s thoughts and intents were when they said mean things online…like people who can police people’s thoughts…a sort of “thought police” you might say. Brilliant!

      Punching someone with a fist is not protected. Free speech is protected, even if it hurts someone, for very good reasons. This is understood by non-idiots of all political persuasions.

    • False analogy: if A hits B and B falls to the ground and the injury results in death, then A is the initiator of the last action directly resulting in the unstoppable chain of events leading to mortal injury.

      In this situation, A has done absolutely nothing to physically assault B. A has bullied B. B was the initiator of the last action directly resulting in the unstoppable chain of events leading to mortal injury (that is, B jumped from a tall building). A’s bullying did not initiate a chain of unstoppable events. Your analogy falters.

        • His statement is accurate…in that scenario, there is neither assault nor battery. Battery without assault is rare (when someone is attacked from behind, for example), and assault without battery is often not prosecuted.

          • Assault is still a crime. It requires no physical harm done. Someone just has to FEEL threatened harm and that needs to be the INTENT of the assaulter.

            There are a lot of people on this thread who are pish poshing the idea of criminalizing bullying because someone can just say they felt threatened. I wonder if they pish posh assault laws as well.

            And one thing that several folks here are ignoring is that when emotional harm is done to a person, that is REAL harm.

            • Dan, you are a bit off. The assault you are talking about, with the intent of causing mental distress, is civil assault in most jurisdictions, and the remedy is damages, and there often aren’t any. Criminal assault is essentially attempted battery. All attempted crimes are crimes…there’s nothing special about attempted battery. I doubt that there is such a thing as “attempted assault.” None of which has much to do with bullying with words only.

            • Assault is still a crime. It requires no physical harm done. Someone just has to FEEL threatened harm and that needs to be the INTENT of the assaulter.

              I see you got your understanding of the law out of the same box the Warrior Princess did…

              There are a lot of people on this thread who are pish poshing the idea of criminalizing bullying because someone can just say they felt threatened. I wonder if they pish posh assault laws as well.

              No, because you don’t seem to understand the law.

              See, an Assault doesn’t happen because someone feels threatened, it happens because a credible threat has been made – feelings don’t matter at all.

              Let’s try a hypothetical or two, and see if we can show precisely where your an idiot…

              Let’s say Dumbfuck Dan tells Stoic Scott that DD is going to shoot SS. The only factors that matter are 1) does DD have the means with which to shoot SS (read: does he have a gun) and 2) is DD in a position to carry out his threat (read: is DD close enough to shoot SS). Now, there are other factors, sure, but those are the two big ones. If either of those tests fail, Assault was not committed. SS doesn’t have to be afraid or even slightly worried – in fact, he can become utterly enraged and desire the attempt be made – for the crime to exist.

              Now, let’s say that Stoic Scott tells Dumbfuck Dan “If you don’t stop fucking my wife I’m going to kill you.” While SS might absolutely desire to make DD fear for his life, the fact that there is no immediate threat (one presumes that DD is not in the process of plowing SS’s spouse), Assault has not been committed. SS will be having a long conversation with the police should DD be shoot at some point in the near future (especially if DD didn’t stop with the boning), but assuming he didn’t actually shoot DD (who honestly isn’t worth the bullet), he’s committed no crime.

              And one thing that several folks here are ignoring is that when emotional harm is done to a person, that is REAL harm.

              No, it’s emotional harm. Your feelings have no protections under criminal law, because “feelings” are not universal, change from person to person, and are absolutely subjective.

              And “subjective” is a term that should never, under any circumstance, be found in a criminal statute.

              • “See, an Assault doesn’t happen because someone feels threatened, it ”

                I didn’t say that, you moron. You missed the AND in the sentance that required something else.

                “No, it’s emotional harm”
                That just proves even more that you are an idiot. Do you believe that mental illness is not a real illness as well?

                What a joke you are.

  10. As an aside, this post is both interesting and troubling to me at the same time. While I’m not proud of it, I was a mean girl in high school. Although I never preyed on the emotionally weak, I could be quite vicious to those girls who were actual or perceived enemies. I brought up the topic of cyber bullying tonight with my sister, and her immediate response was: “My God, I can only imagine what you would have done with Facebook in high school.” I fear she’s right. Teenage girls are stupid, thoughtless, and cruel. I like to think of myself as a kind and compassionate adult, but I wasn’t always that way. Maybe there should be a minimum age requirement for social media, because I think Jack’s legal analysis is unfortunately correct.

    • Beth wrote (while I was writing my comment)

      I like to think of myself as a kind and compassionate adult, but I wasn’t always that way.

      And that possibility is why I would never consider giving this creature the “albatross treatment”. I might be killing another Beth in the cruelest possible way, something far, far worse than anything she could ever have done in her foolish and misguided youth.

      “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

      ― Friedrich Nietzsche

      It’s such an easy trap to fall into. If I believed in gods, I’d prey to God to take me before my passion for justice, to do what is right, becomes perverted into something malignant like that.

  11. An Ethics question:

    Would it be ethical to inform all students this creature interacts with of her posts? All teachers? All schools she applies to? All future prospective employers? And should she ever get employed despite that, all her clients? To hang this as an albatross around her neck until she “does the decent thing:” and does away with herself?

    Just as a public service of course, not in retaliation, oh no. To warn others of possible liability.

    That would, I think, be just. And not illegal. It would also be bullying of the most repugnant kind. It would give no chance of reform, nor growing up. Personally, I doubt that will happen, but the chance must be given.

    Failing that though… how do we protect ourselves against such creatures? How do we hit-them-with-a-cluebat on the off-chance they’re not actually evil?

    Questions I’m good at. Answers…not so much.

    Then again, I live in a jurisdiction where “freedom of speech” is not elevated to be-all and end-all. Usually I’m the one advocating for less restriction not more. But with no restriction… you get scenarios like the one I outlined above. “Albatross!”.

  12. Failing that though… how do we protect ourselves against such creatures? How do we hit-them-with-a-cluebat on the off-chance they’re not actually evil?
    ****************
    You can’t stop bullying in kids with all of the bullying that goes on in the country otherwise – bullying that nobody gives a damn about.

    Look at what the media gets away with, how they treat public figures, celebrities and politicians.
    Look at the horrible, soul-destroying crap they spew every single day about these people and their families.
    Think of what President Bush had to endure, or Sarah Palin, while all the idiots on the left laughed and laughed.
    That’s so funny, let me forward that pic of President Bush as an ape, LOLOLOL.
    Yessiree, it is great fun to joke about Alex Rodriguez impregnating Palin’s 15 year daughter…or wait, I know, her retard son..let’s laugh at him.

    Now teenagers, after listening to and basicially being marinated in this hate fest for years, are starting to..guess what…be mean and nasty to each other.
    Big surprise, right?

      • “Now teenagers, after listening to and basicially being marinated in this hate fest for years, are starting to..guess what…be mean and nasty to each other.”

        With our modern media and information systems, have we perhaps thrust ourselves as a society into a new world, where a new kind of Darwinism governs? “Only the cruelest, who are also most able to self-immunize against cruelty to themselves, survive?”

  13. I am not normally a conspiracy theorist, nor is my opinion all that original but the more attacks I see on our principals the stronger I feel about the US being on the precipice of unrecoverable slide to socialism.

    This is a symptom of the overall rot of society, a rot by design to facilitate “progress”. Support for civility and concepts such as civic virtue have eroded under the general assault against tradition and morality. Champions of progress have felt it was required to throw the baby out with the bathwater in their fight for equal rights and choice. Ideals such as Honor and civility were viewed as incompatible with concepts such as; pick your favorite ism. The formula works, find or create a victim, identify the offence, tie it to a commonly held principal, attack the tradition or virtue as inherently evil, racist, non-inclusive or demeaning, identify individuals, groups or public figures who hold those values who are unpopular and attack them for it. This way even if it is an ideal that the majority of the population believes in they are unlikely to defend it based on the associations it will cause. The BSA/gay rights fight demonstrates how it is done; the casualty ends up being young men instilled with a sense of civic virtue. It has nothing to do with the sexual preference/orientation of the young men who can now join openly; the formula itself destroyed the institution. Never again will it be able to promote clear morale and civic virtues for scouts to follow.

    The fundamental shift towards socialism is upon us, not for the first time. Free speech is critical to combating socialism or any other really bad idea for that matter. True to formula our right of free speech has to be attacked and defeated as an evil principal for socialistic “progress” to take deep roots.

    As always…..Think of the children……..

  14. The more of these stupid, stupid comments I see supporting arresting these kids for being mean, the more obvious it is that they must not have even given 10 minutes’ worth of serious thought to this issue. It’s the socialist disease.

    “Oh, a horrible thing happened. My auto-response is to get the men with guns and badges involved! How else could we possibly stop it?”

    With all due respect…HOW STUPID ARE YOU? Do you not realize that these are dumb, impressionable kids who are only interacting with one another in the first place because they met in a school? Do you not think that the parents, neighbors, school authorities, etc. might have the necessary tools to handle this? Military school? The old fashioned dunce cap? Public shaming? Adding a “not being an ass” grade to report cards?

    Kids and teens are under authority other than the law. If your programmed response to people being jerks is “being in the guys with guns and attack dogs” then you are publicly disavowing having any imagination, drive, work ethic, sense of citizenship, or personal responsibility. Let’s farm our responsibilities as neighbors, parents, teachers, etc. over to the cops. We can’t trust ourselves to actually work up a solution. It’s not like there’s any history of The State abusing that kind of power.

    • I guess when you have a nation of parent’s who feel that “their little darlings would never do anything like that!” and teachers/schools whose hands are tied, maybe the next step has to be the law. Schools are virtually powerless in stopping this kind of behaviour. There are too many parents in denial of their kids actions. When I went to school, if i got in trouble, my parents usually always sided with the school or teacher. Now parents rarley ever hold their own kids accountable. It would mean that they have to “gasp” actually parent!

      • So lock up THE kids. Good plan!

        Bad policies, lazy and stupid adults, incompetent schools, poor role models—so lets criminalize childhood and make criminals out of children during the period when they are supposed to have room to make mistakes and be socialized, using the random reactions of the least able, least well-parented, least stable victim to set the bar on what is a crime or not.

        Emotion-driven hysteria, as these comments prove, is never a good start for solving problems.

        • Ok. Let’s face it, these kids are going to do no time, that’s pretty much a given. So really no one is going to be “locked up”. What will they get, probation? It is sad when we have to criminalize children based on shitty parenting but this happens everyday. We can say the same thing about the kid that commits a b&e, a rape, assault, etc. Do you think they should do time? Going out of your way to destroy someones life and then publicly gloat about it is not just “being a kid” in my opinion. Had this girl just shut her mouth and not posted about how glad she was the she drove this girl to suicide then nothing would have happened to her, but she didn’t. Would you suggest that she just get off scott free? or maybe she can take one of those oh so effective anti-bullying classes that are really just a joke. Maybe where a “pink shirt”? What’s your solution? and please don’t blame the parent of the victim here. I’m also guessing that you don’t have kids of your own, cause if you did, you may feel differently.

          • What will they get, probation?

            Not if they didn’t commit a crime…and they didn’t.

            It is sad when we have to criminalize children based on shitty parenting but this happens everyday.

            Wow! Check the Rationalizations list, please. You just hit #1 out of the park.

            We can say the same thing about the kid that commits a b&e, a rape, assault, etc.

            No, we can’t, because those are crimes. What these girls did is not.

            Do you think they should do time?

            For rape or assault? Damn right they should do time.

            Going out of your way to destroy someones life and then publicly gloat about it is not just “being a kid” in my opinion.

            A misrepresentation: there is no evidence that anyone was “trying to destroy someone’s life,’ which no child even comprehends or can comprehend. And that’s what kids do, in various ways, or experience from others. Bullying is a childhood experience, like measles. And most kids get through it or over it.

            Had this girl just shut her mouth and not posted about how glad she was the she drove this girl to suicide then nothing would have happened to her, but she didn’t.

            !!!!! You have just admitted that she was arrested for pure speech. Now read the Constitution…I know you’re Canadian, but there’s really no excuse for this.

            • “Had this girl just shut her mouth and not posted about how glad she was the she drove this girl to suicide then nothing would have happened to her, but she didn’t.”

              I think that is a misrepresentation also. I’m not sure the bully posted any level of “gladness” for the suicide, just posted her apathy towards it. Not that that lessens the utter contempt the bully has for those around her.

            • Oh please. Bullying is not a childhood experience and doesn’t need to be some right of passage into adulthood, and sorry the bullying that you or I experienced is nothing what compared to what kids suffer today. It’s a whole different animal. Again, isn’t cyberbullying/stalking illegal in Florida, hence why she was charged?

              • sorry the bullying that you or I experienced is nothing what compared to what kids suffer today.

                Bullshit. I spent most of 5th and 6th grade through the start of my junior year being bullied mercilessly. I was beaten up a couple of times, and I was told at least a couple times a week to kill myself.

                The razor blade slipped into my locker once was a nice touch…

                This wasn’t internet, this was in person shit. There was no “block” feature, no option to delete my account. My parents never pulled me out of school.

                I lived with that for YEARS.

                Did I think about killing myself? You bet – everyone has at least thought about it once in their life. But I never got help (from anyone, ever), and I never actually tried it.

                You know why? Because I wasn’t raised to be a fucking pansy. I didn’t base my self worth on empty accolades – when I got praised I fucking earned it, and not just for showing up.

                It was the foundation of my “because fuck you, that’s why” view on life.

                It’s a whole different animal. Again, isn’t cyberbullying/stalking illegal in Florida, hence why she was charged?

                she wasn’t charged for that. She was charged for her “roll” in the girl’s death, based on a statement about how she knew about the suicide and did not care.

                And again, that shit isn’t a crime, no matter how much pathetic piles ofnshit like you might dream of being able to put people in jail for not being – in your opinion – nice enough.

                And that, really, is why your idea is fucking stupid… Would you leave me to be the arbiter of what was and wasn’t “too much”? If not, then why would you trust anyone ever with that power, especially people who frequently abuse their power and are almost never held accountable for their abuses?

                • Wow! How sad for you. That explains a lot. I would think you would be more sympathic to kids going through what you did, not the opposite.

                  • Sympathy does not translate into “let’s make up crimes to punish people who make kids as miserable as I was made.” Sympathy is wonderful. It is not a justification for the abuse of due process, unfairness and unreasonable state action against individuals exercising their rights, however irresponsibly.

                    • Sympathy should cause people to want better for the next generation and not cause them to say “hey, I dealt with it, so should you”.

                    • Now who’s constructing strawmen? (I’m aiming this at Dan, not Jack).

                      (Also, I’m pretty sure some asshat somewhere will construe me snarking at you like this as bullying).

                • AM — bullying took a lot of time and effort back in my day at least. I remember a particularly horrible incident where I used my power to convince an entire class to pretend that another girl didn’t exist. There was no email so I had to track everyone down and explain to them why they were going to do this favor for me. Or another time where I gaslighted a girl for a long period of time — that took coordination on a grand scale. Social media would have made my life easier and the effects of my bullying far worse. Imagine now if you got that razor blade every single day for a year – that would be easy with technology. I don’t think what I did was a crime, and I don’t think what these girls did was a crime, but I also know that we can’t compare our childhood bullying experiences with what happens now. And what girls do today is far worse than what I did. Not because children are worse, but because technology makes it so much easier to isolate someone and escalate the harmful effects. So this discussion is important. And just throwing it back on the parents is crazy. I had very involved parents but they had no clue what I did at school – I was the good child who got straight A’s. And I was smart enough to avoid scrutiny from the Administration. There needs to be protection for these bullied kids – at least in the social media sphere to prevent everyone ganging up on someone with the quick press of a button. I seriously think there should be a minimum age requirement for social media – or perhaps requiring all the kids to use a school chatter site so that at least the Administration is aware who is being targeted and they can warn/punish the bullies apppropriately. Bullying can still be punished with detentions and suspensions – just like it always has. It just doesn’t deserve jail time. And I am sorry that this happened to you.

              • It is certainly a childhood experience, and a common one for a large number of kids. It doesn’t have to be a right of passage, but it often is, like many unpleasantness things in life. And “things are different” is a copout—fisrt, you don’t know that, not being a child now, and second, so what? It still doesn’t negate basic principles like freedom of speech, fairness and due process.

                She wasn’t charged with cyber-bullying, because there is no such crime. Read the post. She was charged because the sheriff thought her comment was cruel (not a crime) and because he wanted to prevent her from bullying others (unconstitutional). She was not “stalking”—it’s a bogus charge.

              • Bullying is a life experience… are you blind? Learning to assert oneself and stand up for the right are virtues badly needed by healthy robust societies.

                “doesn’t need to be some right of passage…” uh ok…strawman.

        • Jack: I think you give teenagers too little credit of what they are capable of and knowing right and wrong. Teenagers can be charged as adults in capital crimes. Why should I believe that a teenager should know that the targeted harassment of another is wrong?

          A mistake is something that happens ONCE. When you bully, it happens more than once, so it cannot be classified as a mistake.

  15. This is a complex issue. Having previous worked in the schools I’ve witnessed the nastiness that can go on with middle school and high school students. Teens do the cyberbullying for a variety of reasons: Violence and disrespect at home, perception of vulnerable targets, envy of high achieving or popular kids, and stupid tv shows that make it all funny. Still, I learned as a kid being perceived as wimpy made me decide to learn to box.
    Helicopter parents can’t protect their kids all the time.

  16. Using the Internet is a choice. Using a cell phone is a choice. You can turn all of these things off to avoid people. You can even block certain places and people on these devices so you don’t have to deal with them.

    This is called a choice. People have many choices in their lives they have full control over. This happens to be one of those choices. The parents are at blame for not going to the full extent to protect their child. They did not get her counseling. They did not block her from using the Internet.

    The bullies are only to blame for being bad people. That is not against the law and can never be against the law. Any thoughts of this being being turned into a law should be washed away with a chlorine cocktail. We can not use bizarro logic to ban language.

  17. The problem with anti-bullying campaigns is that they usually just make life worse for and/or punish the bullied kids. I was bullied all through school and anti-bullying campaigns just make things worse. It makes the bullies mad and it also empowers them. The truth of the matter is, the worst bullies are bullies because they can get away with it for the same reason they always have, they are important. The worst bullies have parents who are influential and who have a reputation among the adults as being good, upstanding people. When the teacher’s head is turned, they are bullies, but while the teacher is watching they are angels.

    So what happens to the average kid being bullied? If he complains about ‘Upstanding Student “, “Upstanding Student” denies it and then claims that he is actually the one being bullied. Who are the teachers going to believe, “nobody” or “Upstanding Student”? Are they really going to believe that “Upstanding Student, start athlete, volunteer, son of a prominent businessman in town who donates tens of thousands of dollars each year to the school, could be a bully? No,’ nobody’ is now going to be severely punished for his bullying ways, don’t you know it.

    It was so much better when a bullied kid could just fight back, get beaten up, and be done with it. Now, he would be put in prison for assault and be labelled a felon for life.

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