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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Who crossed the line in bad karma bully case?



What timing. The U.S. Department of Education put out a new report on school bullying laws and policies this month, just in time to give more context to today's story about the alleged bad karma bully at Osceola Fundamental High School.

Clearly, the school resource officer and school administration at Osceola thought the student crossed the line, which is why she was suspended for three days and charged with stalking. But the USDOE report - encyclopedic in its survey of anti-bullying laws - makes you wonder if the district crossed a line, too, by disciplining the student for something that happened off campus.

The report says schools in 13 states have jurisdiction over off campus behavior if that behavior creates a hostile environment on campus. But it also notes that schools that have gone after off-campus behavior have often faced legal challenges over free speech issues. (The Osceola student's attorney is raising that argument). As a result, some states are reconsidering the scope of their anti-bullying laws.

Florida, the report also notes, is one of five states where school jurisdiction over cyber bullying is limited to "acts that are committed using school-owned or -leased computers, computer networks, or other technology."

As far as we know, the Osceola student made her Facebook comments on a home computer.

We're sure we'll be writing more about this case once the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office finishes its investigation and we can get its side of the story.

[Last modified: Friday, December 30, 2011 4:51pm]


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