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The Evolution of Bullying: Criminalization of Internet Threats

In the good old days, parents worried children would meet at the monkey bars for a fist fight. Unfortunately, bullying is no longer so simple. Technological advances and constant online access allow students to make threatening and cruel comments to the entire cyber community. Often a cyberbully has no concerns about being held accountable for the harsh comments.

Such threats can ostracize children with frightening speed, and many schools are taking action to stop this damaging practice. The Chicago Board of Education took a system wide stance, allowing expulsion or suspension of students who used a computer, social networking site or cell phone to “stalk, harass, bully, or otherwise intimidate,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

In a move to show solidarity, government officials passed House Bill 3281. This bill attaches consequences to cyberbullying and may lead the way toward juvenile crime legislation in the future.

Details of Proposed Bill Regarding CyberBullying

Cyberbullying occurs when a child or teenager is embarrassed, humiliated or tormented via some form of digital communication as defined by the Illinois Attorney General.

The bill is intended to address the statistical findings that internet bullying permeates schools throughout Illinois. Students who threaten peers or school employees on the internet would face suspension or expulsion under the new legislation.

Illinois State Senator Emil Jones III has explained that the legislation is designed to hold students accountable for their actions. It gives them a chance to consider tangible consequences for posting or texting threatening comments. It is hoped that these clear repercussions will deter cyberbullying.

One Step Closer to Criminalization

Some states take accountability measures a step further, and have criminalized cyberbullying. Illinois has yet to pass similar legislation, but it is being considered.

Although victims and advocates push for strict penalties, others counter that such laws violate the constitutional right of free speech. Since such laws may not specifically define what constitutes an offensive comment, critics argue the laws are overly broad and vague.

Typically, offenders are juveniles. It is important to deter these individuals from cyberbullying and hold offenders accountable, but application of criminal charges may be excessive. Since legislation criminalizing cyberbullying is being consideration, it is important to contact an Illinois juvenile crime defense attorney, if your child is accused of this practice to ensure all legal rights are protected.

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