Home > Practice Areas > Cyber-Stalking (Cyber-Bullying)
Rapidly growing numbers of bullying incidents in Florida and especially cases that involve the youth of the state have prompted authorities to bring in new legislation and/or modify existing ones. On the other hand, advances made in the realm of digital communication have served to increase the instances of cyber-bullying and have necessitated the formulation of specific laws. The anti-bullying laws in Florida comprise a vast body of rules that encompasses all instances of bullying including cyber-bullying.
The cyber-bullying law in Florida, as part of the anti-bullying legislation, was adopted by the Florida Legislature in April 2008. The law is titled “Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act” (Fla. Stat. section 1006.147, titled “Bullying and Harassment Prohibited”) and was named after 15-year-old Jeffrey Johnston who killed himself after being a victim of bullying for two years. Jeffrey was also subject to bullying over the Internet.
Understanding the law on Cyber-bullying
Any discussion of the cyber-bullying laws in Florida is incomplete without taking into consideration the overarching premise of the anti-bullying laws of the state.
Florida’s anti-bullying law defines bullying behavior as constituting direct acts like physically attacking, intimidating, teasing or taunting with malicious intent, calling names, making sexual remarks, and stealing or destroying possessions of another person. The law also considers indirect acts like stalking, spreading rumors, or inciting others to discriminate against someone as bullying.
The cyber-bullying laws pertain to those above-mentioned acts that can be perpetrated with the use of a computer and the Internet. In particular, it refers to instances where an individual transmits words, images, or other media over the electronic communication channel that causes intense emotional discomfort, fear, or pain in another person or causes the latter to be face discrimination.
Under the law, explains Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer WR Moore, bullying is explicitly prohibited in all public K-12 institutions in Florida and in any activity or educational program carried out by such an institution. Any instance where the offensive act has been carried out by using data or software accessed through or present within the computer network of such an institution is also regarded as a punishable offense under Florida law.
The law binds on every student and employee of a public K-12 educational institution in Florida. Every such institution is mandated by law to formulate and document a detailed code of conduct that specifies all the acts that constitute bullying including acts of cyber-bullying, and harassment; the ideal behavior expected from a student or an employee of the institution; the method of reporting all instances of bullying; the procedure to inform parents and relevant criminal authorities; and a detailed description of the consequences if someone abuses the law and falsely accuses another person of carrying out cyber-bullying acts.