CABA’s Law Related Education Committee (“Committee”) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Annual Essay Contest:
Each year the Committee selects a legal topic of interest to 7th and 8th graders. The topic for 2014 was as follows:
Should a school be allowed to discipline students for their Facebook, Twitter or other social media posts? Why or why not? What laws are at issue?
Students at area schools across the metro-Jackson area, both public and private, were invited to participate in the contest. This year the Committee, which included T. L. “Smith” Boykin, III (Page Kruger & Holland), Susan Floyd King (Chair) (Jones Walker LLP), Lauren Oaks Lawhorn (Brunini Law Firm), Troy Odom (Blair & Bondurant, P.A.) and Stephanie Rippee (Watkins & Eager PLLC), received over fifty essays. The winning essays were selected based on the strength of arguments presented, use of law to support a position and overall structure and content.
The winners and their families were invited to attend the Membership Meeting of CABA held on June 17, 2014. Dalton Dear and Jacob Harkins each had an opportunity to read aloud their winning essays and visit with members of CABA. Thank you, members of CABA, for supporting this important and effective outreach program.
I firmly believe that a school should be allowed to discipline students for their Facebook, Twitter and other social media posts. Over 95% of teens in the United States have full access to the internet, and more than 90% of those teens have used some form of social media. Out of the 90% of teens that have used some form of social media, 88% of regular social media users reported witnessing cruel or unnecessary derogatory statements posted on social media. This use of social media otherwise known as cyberbullying has become a major issue in United States, and it is completely illegal in 46 states. Cyberbullying is the inappropriate use of social media and internet services to embarrass, harass, humiliate, or threaten another minor.
Mississippi has major laws regarding cyberbullying and inappropriate actions done through social media. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-29-45 states that is unlawful to make a telecommunication or electronic communication with the intent to terrify, intimidate, or harass another, and threaten to inflict or physical harm to any person or to his property. This law is punishable up to five hundred dollars or imprisonment in the county jail for six months on just the first offense, and it is often used to criminally penalize cyber bullies within Mississippi. Also, Senate Bill 2015 requires each school district to adopt anti-bullying policies including cyberbullying and to educate children, parents, and school employees about the dangers of bullying. This bill too effect July 1, 2010.
A major controversial topic within social media punishment though schools is the First Amendment. The First Amendment states that all American citizens are given the right of the freedom of speech. Even so, this right does not apply in private schools. Since private schools run outside of the state’s control, they do not have to abide by the First Amendment. If you attend a private school, the school can only grant free speech rights through beliefs endorsed through the school. This lack of freedom should be held accountable to the student and the parent because the student and his parent freely made the choice to attend that school, so the student must fully abide by the rules of the school. The inappropriate use of social media outside of school could lead to more internal problems within the school, so the school should clearly be allowed to take a necessary course of action to resolve the issue.
To help reduce cyberbullying and other forms of technology abuse, schools should most definitely be allowed to punish students for their Facebook, Twitter, or other social media posts. Students who participate in the act of cyberbullying should be able to face up to their actions and understand that they can be punished for what they have done inside and outside of school. Also, awareness of the punishments awaiting students that participate in these actions will help reduce cyberbullying and other forms of technology abuse.