Cyberbullying Laws in North Carolina

Before the internet, the only time a child was likely to encounter a bully was during the school day. Now that almost every kid has their own cell phone, Instagram, and Facebook account, bullies have far more opportunities to torment their victims outside of school. Bullying has evolved into cyberbullying.

Since many bully/victim relationships start in school, teachers in North Carolina are trained on how to handle bullying in the classroom. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is much harder to manage.

If your child is involved in bullying, it’s important to be well-versed in North Carolina’s cyberbullying laws and penalties. It’s also important to talk to a North Carolina cyberbullying lawyer to get ahead of the situation as soon as possible.

The Definition of Cyberbullying

The Cyberbullying Research Center describes it as, “Intentional and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.”

Cyberbullying can happen via social media, text messages, video gaming, online forums, and through a variety of apps. It typically comes in the form of negative or false content or media that is designed to embarrass or humiliate another person.

As an adult, you might be surprised by some of the statistics. About one-third of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 have experienced cyberbullying at least once. Girls are more likely to be bullied online than boys and an astonishing 50% of LGBTQ+ have had to endure cyberbullying attacks. As DoSomething.org points out, this all translates to a greater risk of self-harm and suicidal thoughts or behaviors amongst bullied kids.

What is Cyberbullying in North Carolina?

Cyberbullying is covered and punished under North Carolina’s bullying laws. As far as the state is considered, bullying and cyberbullying must include a “pattern of gestures or written, electronic, or verbal communications, or any physical act or any threatening communication” that:

  • Causes a student to experience actual or reasonable fear of harm to themselves or their property.
  • Creates a hostile environment. This means the victim perceives the behavior to be bullying and the behavior is aggressive enough that any reasonable person would agree.
  • Affects the student’s performance in school or in other areas of their life (social, personal, family, etc.)
  • May be discriminatory and inflicted on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, color, religion, abilities/disabilities, socioeconomic status, or appearance.
  • Involves an imbalance of power
  • Has occurred on more than one occasion

The laws were originally written for instances of bullying that occur on campus, but it should be noted that when the above acts occur off-campus, it is considered cyberbullying. Both of these crimes can be punished with criminal sanctions under North Carolina law.

Types of Bullying

Bullying typically can be broken down into three categories: physical, social, and verbal. Since cyberbullying takes place solely online, there is no physical component. Some examples of the social and verbal bullying that can happen online include:

  • Name-calling
  • Spreading rumors/false information
  • Taunting
  • Threatening physical harm
  • Inappropriate sexual comments
  • Teasing
  • Intentionally embarrassing the victim in a public forum
  • Purposefully excluding the victim from participating in an activity
  • Telling others to purposefully ignore, exclude, or be mean to the victim

North Carolina School Bullying Policies

Since 2009, school administrators have been required to implement anti-bullying policies and outline who is in charge of enforcing them. Each district’s anti-bullying policy must contain key elements that include, but are not limited to:

  • A definition for bullying that is no less inclusive than the state’s official definition
  • Statements that prohibit the defined behavior
  • Statements that prohibit retaliation against someone who reports bullying
  • Descriptions of both define and expected behavior for students and staff
  • A system for reporting and investigating accusations of bullying
  • Consequences of bullying
  • Consequences for retaliating against someone who reports bullying
  • Information on how the policy will be publicized

Penalties for Cyberbullying in North Carolina

Cyberbullying can be punished as either a class 1 or class 2 misdemeanor. In some cases, it can cross the line into stalking, which is a class A1 misdemeanor punishable by fines, jail time, and/or community services. Generally, cyberbullying is punished depending on the circumstances of the case, the defendant’s age and criminal history, and how the jury sees fit to proceed.

In addition to seeking criminal charges, victims may also elect to bring a civil case against the bully. If the victim has a case, they could receive compensation for things like emotional trauma and therapy costs.

Contact a North Carolina Cyberbullying Attorney

Cyberbullying can have a serious effect on the lives of both the victim and the perpetrator. Criminal charges should be taken very seriously and so should the emotional damage done to the victims. Learn more about making use of the cyberbullying resources provided by North Carolina Public schools. If your child has been accused, contact the lawyers at Mulligan Attorneys, (910) 763-1100.