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North Carolina students could be charged with a crime

A new law places North Carolina students at risk of criminal repercussions for certain actions that were previously considered to be the disciplinary realm of parents and school administrators. The law went into effect on Dec. 1, and is named the 2012 School Violence Prevention Act. Under the new law, students who commit a range of acts considered to be online buying do so at risk of being charged with a crime.

The Act is the first of its kind in the nation. While many states have enacted legislation aimed at preventing students from being bullied, this law aims to give teachers those same protections. Under the new law, student are prohibited from using computers for the goal to 'intimidate or torment' school employees.

While bullying is not an acceptable practice, many oppose the new law, stating that it infringes on the constitutional rights of students to free speech. In addition, the terms 'intimidate' and 'torment' have not been precisely defined in North Carolina law, which leaves them open to interpretation by individual judges. Furthermore, students who are convicted of the misdemeanor charge will establish a criminal record, which can impact their lives for many years to come.

As this law begins to be applied, students who find themselves charged with a crime in relation to cyberbullying must take an aggressive approach in defending their actions. The first cases to reach North Carolina courts will begin establishing a history of case law, which will be influential in the outcome of future cases. As this will be an area of uncharted legal waters for some time, it is imperative that students and their parents make well-informed legal decisions in how to respond to such charges.

Source: NewsObserver.com, "A bad new law targets N.C. students," Sarah Preston, Dec. 3, 2012

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