According to the Associated Press:
When high school teacher Lee Waters logged on to a popular Web site and read the demeaning sexual comments a student had posted alongside her picture, the Sarasota woman felt completely degraded.
The school district suspended the North Port High School student, but attorney Geoffrey Morris said Waters doesn't think the boy understands the humiliation she feels.
The teacher filed a lawsuit against the student in March, but she isn't looking for money. She just wants other students to understand how harmful Internet pranks can be, Morris said.
"This teacher was maligned by this kid," Morris said. "She was so upset about it and she filed this lawsuit because she says teaching is a profession and that the administration turned their back on her complaint."
The Sarasota County School District said it did what it could to help Waters by suspending the student and taking other disciplinary action, but it's not alone as it struggles to deal with cyber-bullying. Similar lawsuits and complaints are popping up in Florida and elsewhere nationwide as bullies move from punching someone on the playground to writing nasty and sometime libelous postings about classmates, teachers and school officials on the Internet, where everyone can read them.
Public and private schools have launched cyber-crackdowns on the bullies, but that has left them vulnerable to accusations that they are violating the students' First Amendment rights, particularly when the posting is made on an off-campus computer as most are. The American Civil Liberties Union has been quick to file and threaten lawsuits if it thinks a school or district has crossed the line.
"If it's directly related to a school situation, then yes, we can discipline," said Fred Navarro, director of secondary education of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in California.
Twenty middle school pupils in Navarro's district were suspended in February for viewing a MySpace posting made by one child that contained graphic threats against another. Police are investigating the boy's comments about his classmate as a possible hate crime, and the district is trying to expel him.
But Joseph Turrow, an Internet expert at the University of Pennsylvania, calls such discipline for off-campus activity cyber-spying. [Link]
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