Wes Poole Abstract
The study examines the acceptable computer system use policies of each of the public school districts in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as the Virginia School Boards Association and the National School Boards Association policies as they relate to cyberbullying. Public middle school and public secondary school administrators across the Commonwealth were surveyed to determine to what extent cyberbullying is an issue in their schools, and to determine their views of their districts’ current policies and procedures as they relate to cyberbullying. The study addresses the legal framework, based upon case law and statutory law that school districts must work within to balance students’ free speech rights without abandoning the need to provide a safe and controlled learning environment. The study examines five arenas of students’ First Amendment rights as they relate to cyberbullying with particular attention paid to Internet Service Provider liability, including: 1) form of the speech, political or obscene, 2) school-sponsored speech, 3) severity of the disruption caused by the incident, 4) site(s) of the incident, and 5) if the incident rises to the level of a true threat. The study evaluates existing school district policies in addition to public school administrators’ perceptions relative to related statutory and case law in order to formulate a model policy that is legally defensible and would be appropriate for adoption by Virginia public school districts.