Date of Award

Spring 3-28-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy

Department

Education Leadership, Management and Policy

Advisor

Luke Stedrak, Ed.D

Committee Member

Robert Kelchen, Ph.D

Committee Member

Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj, Ph.D

Keywords

cyberbullying, bullying, first amendment, public schools, antibullying laws

Abstract

The first amendment protected students’ first amendment rights in K-12 public schools; however, state antibullying legislation required school officials to discipline students for bullying and, in most states, cyberbullying as well. An increasing number of students had access to mobile devices at home and during the school day. School officials had the responsibility to protect students from instances of bullying and cyberbullying; however, school officials did not fully understand the extent of their authority to discipline students for acts of bullying that occurred online, off school grounds. Despite the existence of state antibullying laws in all fifty states, contradictory appellate court decisions in cases involving cyberbullying and K-12 public schools made it difficult for school administrators to understand their authority. Appellate courts utilized a Tinker test when determining the outcomes of cases involving cyberbullying and K-12 public schools. The Tinker test was derived from the Supreme Court decision in Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), in which the Supreme Court overturned the suspension of students that wore armbands to protest the Vietnam War. There were two prongs of the Tinker test: (1) whether the instance of cyberbullying caused a substantial interference in the school, and (2) whether or not a substantial interference could be reasonably forecasted.

The purpose of this public policy dissertation was to provide state legislators and school administrators with an in-depth review of state antibullying laws as well as greater insight into how the appellate courts interpreted the extent and limitations of First Amendment in K-12 public schools.

This public policy dissertation compared state antibullying legislation in all 50 states in the United States and reviews all appellate court decisions involving K-12 public schools and cyberbullying. Each state’s legislation was reviewed between October 31, 2016, and December 31, 2016, to determine (1) if there was an antibullying law in effect, (2) if cyberbullying was included in the legislation, (3) if bullying was defined as a one-time event, (4) if school officials were given the authority to discipline students for off-campus behavior, (5) if schools were required to implement an antibullying policy, (6) if the substantial interference or substantial disruption language from Tinker was included in the antibullying legislation, (7) if there was a school sanction for bullying, (8) if there was a criminal sanction for face-to-face bullying, and (9) if there was a criminal sanction for cyberbullying. Each appellate court decision involving K-12 public schools and cyberbullying was reviewed to determine how the Tinker test was applied in each case.

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