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Is Online Bullying Illegal?

In recent years many people, both adults to teenagers, have recognized the impact bullying has on others. That's why Tennessee and many other states have adopted cyberbullying laws to create a safer environment for all people. 

Tennessee requires all schools to adopt anti-cyberbullying policies to curtail the number of students who face harassment outside of school grounds. Despite these policies, many students end up breaking them inadvertently. It is critical for all teenagers to be aware of what constitutes online harassment to avoid facing charges for cybercrimes


In Tennessee, it is a misdemeanor to harass others online. For a message to harass, it needs to have the intent of being perceived as a threat by the recipient. Additionally, any reasonable person looking at the message would need to perceive it as threatening. 


By making repeated attempts at contact through a social media site, text message or another form of online communication, a person can face stalking charges. One student harassing another of the same age will face misdemeanor charges. However, the crime becomes a felony if the harassed individual is younger than 18 years old and the harasser is more than five years older. 


A school can be at least partially liable if the harassment takes place on school grounds or if it takes place away from school but at a school-sanctioned event. Since many students now have smartphones on them at all times, it is easy for them to harass or stalk others from anywhere. The school needs to lay out clear guidelines on how teachers are to report instances of harassment. A school can reduce its liability by having procedures in place to inform students of what constitutes online bullying and what the consequences are for engaging in bullying. Teachers cannot face retaliation for reporting cases of cyberbullying.

People who face cyberbullying charges have rights. In addition, the prosecutor has to prove every element of the case to get a conviction. If you or a family member faces a cyberbullying charge, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney.