Sad news recently came out of Folsom, California, where it has been reported that a 12 year old boy name Ronin Shimizu committed suicide. While any such news would be upsetting, Ronin's fact pattern is one that we are all too familiar with as we regularly litigate school bullying cases. Apparently, Ronin's greatest crime was that he wanted to be and loved performing as a cheerleader for his middle school. As the only male cheerleader on the team, Ronin was relentlessly teased, bullied and harassed. Other students called him "gay" and hurled other slurs in his direction. Harassment at the school became so overwhelming that Ronin withdrew and went on homebound instruction prior to his suicide.
Cyber-bullying has continued to grow as social media takes on a greater role in many people's day to day lives. Freed from even the tenuous accountability of bullying a person to his or her face, cyber-bullies have become a massive problem for children and in some cases for adults, too. A school or workplace can become a nightmare when bullies have access and seemingly a free rein to spew vile abuse and hatred online. Unsurprisingly, the victims of cyber-bullying are all too frequently members of the groups that have been targeted in America for generations: females, members of ethnic and racial minorities, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.
The Associated Press recently obtained a copy of a memo sent out by the Central Intelligence Agency's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity director. In the message, the director said that out of 69 complaints of harassment in the 12 months preceding Sept. 30, 2013, the office found 15 complaints to be true. According to the memo, the offenders involved in those cases, which included racial, sexual and other harassment, were disciplined.
New Jersey passed, a few years back, a comprehensive "anti-bullying" law which addresses, in broad fashion, incidents of "harassment, intimidation or abuse" in schools. The law required schools to hire and train professional "bullying" specialists, to maintain specific records (to be sent to the state periodically) regarding "HIB" incidents, and established other standards pertinent to both preventing and responding to incidents of bullying.
"Or... Oh yeah, the internet."