Hans Bader on the Maryland cyber-bullying bill

by Walter Olson on April 6, 2013

He follows up on my criticism from yesterday:

Under the First Amendment, the government has far less power to restrict speech when it acts as a sovereign (such as when it criminally prosecutes people for their speech) than when it uses non-criminal disciplinary tools to regulate speech in its own government offices or (in certain circumstances) the public schools. …

… Maryland’s law restricts speech in society generally, by both minors and adults. The government obviously cannot rely on public school officials’ custodial and tutelary power over student speech to restrict the speech of adult non-students, much less their speech outside the schools. … The fact that speech is emotionally distressing may be a factor in whether to discipline a student for it under school rules, but it is not a justification for criminal prosecution, or even, generally speaking, a tort lawsuit. …

Activists claim bullying is an “epidemic” and a “pandemic.” But in reality, the rate of bullying has steadily diminished in the nation’s schools.

More: Mike Masnick at TechDirt criticizes the new law and kindly quotes my piece.