Feature

Does the Phoebe Prince case prove we don't need anti-bully laws?

The teens who made Phoebe Prince's life unbearable are being prosecuted without anti-bullying laws, points out Wendy Kaminer in the Atlantic

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."

Read the full article here.

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