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Perpetrators may be more inclined toward bullying online because they do not see or hear the consequences of their behaviour, which discourages the development of empathy.
Student(s) Against Authority
There have been a number of reports of students engaging in online bullying behaviour against teachers and administrators. Most often this has taken the form of Web pages created to criticize or mock teachers, photos of teachers manipulated to be embarrassing or offensive, and uploading of embarrassing videos.
The Internet makes this kind of behaviour easier because young people feel that they are out of the school’s reach on the Internet, and because it permits a cloak of anonymity.
Criminal Law: harassment and defamatory libel
Criminal harassment is an offence under the Criminal Code. It consists of communication that causes another person to fear for his or her life or the lives of others. It can also apply to “stalking” behaviour, where frequency (rather than content) causes the fear.
Defamatory libel is also an offence under the Criminal Code. It consists of communication that can severely harm the reputation of an individual. There have been few recent cases of defamatory libel, all of them against people in positions of authority such as police, judges and prison guards. (For details, go to www.answers.com/topic/defamation-1.)
Civil law: defamation
Defamation in civil law means communicating a false statement (which does not have to be in words — it could be an image, a movie, etc.) that will do harm to the reputation of another person. It must have a clear and obvious target and be accessible to one or more people besides the person making the statement and the target.
Generally speaking, spoken or transitory defamation is called slander and written or permanent defamation is called libel. Both can be the subject of lawsuits by the target.
“The reasonable person”: To be libellous, the material must seem defamatory to a person who is “reasonable,” not a person with delicate or fragile sensibilities. There is no absolute legal test for this and it must be defined case-by-case, though there are precedents.
Innocent reproduction: A person who knowingly reproduces or forwards defamatory material, or causes it to be distributed, can be held liable for her or his actions. The exception is where she or he had no reasonable way of knowing that the material was defamatory. For instance, a teacher would be liable if the defamation appeared on the school Web site (where he or she has final approval over its content) but probably not if it appeared in an e-mail sent from the school’s computer lab, since the teacher could not reasonably supervise what every student was doing at every moment.
Human Rights Law: Safe Work Environment
All employers are required to guarantee a safe work environment to their workers. This applies to teachers — school boards and administrators must act against any bullying behaviour toward their teachers — and it also applies to students. Therefore, school boards, administrators and teachers have a responsibility to guarantee a safe learning environment for their students. Even if bullying is taking place outside the school (such as on a Web site), the school has a responsibility to act if the situation is preventing any student from enjoying a safe learning environment.
Duty of care: Schools have an additional responsibility to act in loco parentis, or in the place of parents, because they have charge of children. Therefore, their duty to prevent and act on cyberbullying extends beyond that of employers.
Teachers and administrators must be aware of tangible and foreseeable harm that might come to students under their care. For teachers or administrators to be held liable, the harm done must be related to an action or omission on their part.
The following is a composite list of the rights and responsibilities of students and teachers in regard to cyberbullying under civil law. Individual schools, school boards, and provinces or territories may have their own formal codes of rights and responsibilities.
Summary of a Student’s Rights and Responsibilities:
Summary of a Teacher’s Rights and Responsibilities:
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