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Is bullying a crime? Criminal defense experts not convinced

Kids will be kids -- but should they be held legally responsible for their bullying behavior? One California city is answering that question with a resounding "yes," as legislators attempt to criminalize bullying among students. Further, anyone up to age 25 could be required to mount a criminal defense against bullying allegations, which would be considered misdemeanor crimes.

Authorities in Carson, which is a suburb of Los Angeles, are planning to become one of the first cities in the area to define bullying as a crime. The ordinance passed through the city council in early May, and it is slated to return for a vote on May 20. Lawmakers say they are not attempting to target young children to put them in juvenile custody; rather, they are attempting to stop the trend of systematic assault that appears to be raging through local communities.

However, representatives from activist groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union say that the measure is not clear enough. For example, the legislation does not lay out potential jail terms for offenders convicted under the law. Misdemeanor sentences by definition carry only a maximum one-year sentence. Even other organizations that are working to eliminate bullying say the Carson measure goes too far. The founder of Stomp Out Bullying said the city runs the risk of jailing someone simply for calling another person an ugly name.

Bullying is, indeed, a serious problem in our social media age. Children are experiencing difficulties relating to each other with technology in some instances. However, that does not mean that kids should find themselves facing serious criminal convictions because of behavior that could be considered socially inappropriate.

Source: Reuters, "California city aims to fight bullying by criminalizing it" Alex Dobuzinskis, May. 07, 2014

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