Don’t Be a Bully!

School is starting and many kids are heading into situations that should be filled with learning and fun.

Unfortunately, many of these kids are also heading into situations filled with some students that are using technology to bully and harass other students.

In July, a federal appeals court in Richmond refused to reinstate a lawsuit brought by a West Virginia high-school student named Kara Kowalski.  Ms. Kowalski claimed that her five-day suspension from Musselman High School, and the subsequent ‘social suspension’ in 2005 had violated her free speech and due process rights.   The actions were ordered by the school after Kowalski created a MySpace page that targeted another student with photos and suggestions that the other student was a ‘whore’ who had ‘herpes’.

Kowalski argued that she should not have been punished by the school for private, out of school speech.  The Fourth Circuit ruled that public schools have a compelling interest in regulating speech that disrupts school activities, and that bullying is a major concern for schools nationwide.  Judge Paul V Niemeyer said that “[S]chool administrators must be able to prevent and punish harassment and bullying in order to provide a safe school environment conductive to learning.”

This case has not been brought before the United States Supreme Court… yet… and it might not ever be brought before the highest court in the nation.  But for right now, the decision of the 4th Circuit is the prevailing law for Virginia.

The Code of Virginia was also modified effective July 1, 2011 to state that the use of cell phones and other wireless telecommunication devices to distribute profane, threatening, or indecent language with the intent to coerce, intimidate or harass any person is guilty of a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which carries a possible jail sentence of up to 12 months and a possible fine of up to $2,500.

As I said before, don’t be a bully.  It is being taken very seriously!

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

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