Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Teen Cyberbullying Investigated by Judge Tom Jacobs

Subtitled “Where Do Your Rights End and Consequences Begin?” this is a very thorough exploration of students' free speech rights. It informs teens about far more than cyberbullying which is covered in the final chapter. Jacobs, who also runs a website, was a juvenile court judge in Arizona. 

After an overview of how the First Amendment has been applied to students, Jacobs picks a case in each chapter that illustrates a particular point. He describes what the student did and what the court decided. He offers discussion questions and similar cases that weren't necessarily decided the same way. He tells what became of the people involved and suggests further reading. As the recent sexting case in Virginia illustrates, the possibilities of online trouble are many and varied. 

The whole question of what a student says about school when away from school is covered from many different angles. In some cases, sympathy will lie with a teacher who was attacked, but in other cases a school administration seems to have lacked a sense of proportion. Many of the cases involve venting but others show the concerted cruelty of bullying. Hacking and other clearly criminal conduct is covered as well. Jacobs points out that winning a case may take years and meanwhile it disrupts the student's high school career.

The chapters in Teen Cyberbullying Investigated are short and the text is broken into readable chunks so a reader may not even notice that he or she is getting a through legal grounding. At the end, the judge explains legal citations, provides a glossary, and further resources. Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy by Emily Bazelon explores three cases of bullying in depth, showing how complex the problem can be. While its intended audience is adult, teen readers may find the stories riveting.

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