The Long Arm of the …er, uh…Principal?
In Act 191 (H.B. 131), which has an effective date of May 6, 2015, the Georgia General Assembly revised the definition of bullying in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-751.4. https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20152016/HB/131 Local school systems should review their existing policies for compliance with the amendment.
The previous law defined bullying to mean those acts that fit the definition of bullying if those acts: 1) occurred on school property; 2) occurred on school vehicles; 3) occurred at designated school bus stops; 4) occurred at school related functions or activities; or 5) occurred though use of data or software accessed through computer, network or other technology of the local school system.
Act 191 adds the following to the above list of five conditions: “The term also applies to acts of cyberbullying which occur through the use of electronic communications, whether or not such electronic act originated on school property or with school equipment, if the electronic communication (1) is directed specifically at students or school personnel, (2) is maliciously intended for the purpose of threatening the safety of those specified or substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school, and (3) creates a reasonable fear of harm to the students’ or school personnel’s person or property or has a high likelihood of succeeding in that purpose.”
Principals are limited in their ability to discipline students for off-campus misconduct except in limited circumstances. This amendment lengthens the reach of the Principal in regard to bullying offenses committed at home or other off campus locations. Just how this legislation will be interpreted under Ticker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmy. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969) and under recent off-campus speech/misconduct cases remains to be seen. Such cases are usually controlled by their specific facts. In the meantime, perhaps the best course of action is to ascertain whether the local school system’s policy is up to date and to provide training to those administrators who are charged with implementing the bullying policy.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information. It is neither legal advice nor is it an advertisement for legal services. Please consult legal counsel for legal advice regarding Georgia’s bullying laws.
Thanks for reading! – Debra