Nine Massachusetts teenagers — two boys and seven girls — who allegedly drove 15-year-old Phoebe Prince to suicide with their ruthless taunting and abuse have been charged with a variety of crimes ranging from statutory rape to stalking. Notably, none of the charges stem from anti-bullying laws (Massachusetts doesn't currently have such a law, though 41 other states do). Lawyer and author Wendy Kaminer argues in The Atlantic that the Prince case offers yet another reason states should be cautious about passing such legislation:
"If the prosecution of Prince's alleged tormenters is merited, it suggests that laws against bullying may be redundant, at best. At worst, (and often) anti-bullying regulation is overbroad, exerting control over students outside of school and infringing unduly on speech, especially when it addresses cyber-bullying.
"The rash of recent cases targeting student online speech (especially speech critical of administrators), the use of child porn laws to prosecute teens for sexting, and the scandalous use of webcams to spy on students at home should make us skeptical of legislation aimed at curbing verbal 'abuses.'
"This does not mean that school administrators should only respond to bullying that is so severe, willful, and prolonged that it constitutes criminal harassment or stalking; but it may mean that unless bullying does constitute a criminal offense, it is not the business of legislators."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The 11 worst fast food restaurants in America
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- 7 language habits that reveal your age
- The biggest lesson Obama failed to learn from Bush
- Why Peter Capaldi has a bigger challenge than any Doctor Who in history
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- A scientific fact-check of 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The weird obsession that's ruining the GOP
Subscribe to the Week