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Sacramento Laws on Cyberbullying and Online Harassment

 

Sacramento Laws on Cyberbullying and Online Harassment

Cyberbullying and online harassment have become major issues in recent years, especially among young people. Various laws and policies have been implemented in Sacramento, California to address these problems.

Definition of Cyberbullying

There is no single agreed-upon definition of cyberbullying. However, it is often characterized by repeated harmful actions through electronic means intended to frighten, anger or humiliate the victim . It differs from in-person bullying in that the perpetrator can potentially be anonymous and can reach the victim at any time or place. Cyberbullying can occur through social media, texts, emails, chats, forums, and other online channels.

Types of Cyberbullying

Some common types of cyberbullying include :

  • Harassment – Repeatedly sending offensive, rude, insulting messages.
  • Denigration – Posting cruel rumors, lies or gossip to damage reputation.
  • Impersonation – Creating fake accounts to embarrass someone.
  • Outing and Trickery – Sharing private information or tricking someone into revealing secrets.
  • Exclusion – Intentionally leaving someone out of group messages or activities.
  • Cyberstalking – Ongoing harassment and threats that cause intense fear.

California Cyberbullying Laws

There is no single cyberbullying law in California. However, various laws and policies address elements of cyberbullying :

  • Assembly Bill 256 – Makes it a misdemeanor to photograph or record someone in a harassing manner without consent.
  • Senate Bill 1255 – Requires schools to update policies on student suicide prevention, intervention, and reporting.
  • Assembly Bill 746 – Requires school districts to adopt a policy on pupil suicide prevention.
  • Senate Bill 836 – Provides school staff training on how to recognize and intervene in cases of bullying and cyberbullying.

While these laws focus on schools, they indicate that cyberbullying is taken seriously in California. Victims can potentially pursue civil lawsuits against perpetrators for issues like defamation, stalking or harassment.

Sacramento Policies on Cyberbullying

The Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) has implemented detailed policies and reporting procedures related to bullying and cyberbullying . This includes:

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2024-02-24
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  • Annual staff training on recognizing and responding to bullying.
  • Clear procedures for students to report bullying to school staff.
  • A requirement for schools to notify parents of bullying investigations.
  • Consequences for students who engage in bullying like suspension or expulsion.
  • Support services for victims like counseling or mental health referrals.

The policies cover bullying on school campuses, school-sponsored activities, school buses, and bullying using electronic devices. While schools cannot punish off-campus cyberbullying, they can provide support for victims.

Online Harassment Laws

California has laws that specifically address online harassment and stalking :

  • Penal Code 653.2 – Makes it a crime to repeatedly harass someone using electronic devices in a way that seriously alarms, annoys, torments or terrorizes them.
  • Penal Code 646.9 – Makes it a crime to willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follow or harass someone in a way that causes them to fear for their safety.

These laws apply to online harassment of both minors and adults. Offenders can face fines up to $1000 and jail time up to 1 year. Victims can obtain restraining orders against harassers. Platforms like Facebook also allow users to report harassment.

Defenses Against Cyberbullying Claims

Those accused of cyberbullying or online harassment may raise certain defenses :

  • Free Speech – The First Amendment protects free speech, but this does not include true threats or speech intended to incite violence.
  • No malicious intent – Defendants can argue actions were not intended to harass the plaintiff.
  • Self-defense – Responding to bullying by sharing evidence can be justified as self-defense.
  • No expectation of privacy – Sharing public posts or information may not be reasonable invasion of privacy.

However, these defenses have limits. Speech that causes substantial emotional distress is generally not protected. Privacy settings can indicate an expectation of privacy. Context and intent matter.

What to Do If You’re Being Harassed

If you are being cyberbullied or harassed online, some steps you can take include:

  • Documenting evidence like screenshots of messages or posts.
  • Blocking the harasser on social media and other platforms.
  • Reporting abuse or harassment to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc.
  • Filing a complaint with the police if you feel physically threatened.
  • Consulting with a lawyer about potential legal action like a restraining order.
  • Seeking counseling or talking to someone you trust for emotional support.

You may not be able to fully stop the harassment, but taking action can help mitigate some of the damage. Support from friends and family can also make a difference.

Conclusion

While cyberbullying and online harassment are complex issues, Sacramento has taken steps to address these problems – especially for students. Victims have options like reporting abuse to schools or police, potential legal action, and seeking emotional support. Ultimately, promoting education and empathy may be the best long-term solutions.

References

https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it

https://www.verywellfamily.com/types-of-cyber-bullying-460549

https://www.stopbullying.gov/resources/laws/california

https://www.scusd.edu/bullying-prevention

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=653.2.&lawCode=PEN

https://www.stimmel-law.com/en/articles/defenses-cyber-bullying-claims

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