Sorry, kids, no privacy for you. State gives teachers free access to student cell phones, laptops [, by Drew Zahn, 26/11/2010 ]

Concerned about “sexting” and “cyberbullying” in schools, Virginia’s attorney general says teachers have the legal authority to seize and search through students’ cell phones and laptops – without consent, warrant or parental permission.

In an advisory opinion addressed to State Delegate Robert Bell, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II says teachers with “reasonable suspicion” of wrongdoing can confiscate students’ electronic devices to search stored messages for evidence.

“It is my opinion,” Cuccinelli writes, “that searches and seizures of students’ cellular phones and laptops are permitted when there is a reasonable suspicion that the student is violating the law or the rules of the school.”

The opinion states that though the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment normally preserves the right of the people “to be secure in their persons, house, papers and effects against unreasonable search and seizure,” nonetheless, “The supervision and operation of schools present ‘special needs’ beyond normal law enforcement and, therefore, a different framework is justified.”

John W. Whitehead, founder of the civil liberties group Rutherford Institute, however, warned Cuccinelli’s opinion could lead to violations of students’ civil rights.

“This is bad, bad thinking,” Whitehead told the Charlottesville, Va., Daily Progress. “It’s just appalling that people think like this in a country where we’re supposed to be teaching kids to value freedom and civil rights.”

“This teaches a really bad political science lesson,” he continued, “and that’s that the government can do whatever it wants with you.”

State Delegate Bell, a Republican who sits in Virginia’s “Thomas Jefferson seat” – since Jefferson represented the region in the state’s General Assembly from 1769 to 1774 – had originally asked Cuccinelli for the opinion so he could answer questions from school principals in his district.

The administrators were asking how far they could go to counter “sexting” – the practice of students sending explicit or nude photos to one another via cell phone – and cruel and demeaning messages via email and social networks commonly called “cyberbullying.”

“School administrators don’t want to violate anybody’s rights,” Bell told the Daily Progress. “And they don’t want to break the law. But they do want to be able to intervene if they can.”

In his opinion, Cuccinelli cites the 1985 U.S. Supreme Court case New Jersey v. T.L.O, which ruled that “the substantial need of teachers and administrators for freedom to maintain order in the schools does not require the strict adherence to the requirement that searches be based on probable cause.”

Therefore, Cuccinelli concludes, should a student report to a teacher a bullying or “sexting” text message from another student, for example, the teacher should have the authority to seize the alleged bully’s cell phone to investigate the claim.

“It is my general opinion that a search of a cellular phone by a school principal or teacher under these circumstances would be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment and the standard established in New Jersey v. T.L.O.,” Cuccinelli writes. “Moreover, under T.L.O., once a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing exists, a search of a student’s personal belongings does not require the student’s consent or the consent of his parents.”

The only caveat Cuccinelli includes concerns discovery of nude or explicit photos of a minor. Should a teacher discover such photos, the attorney general advises, the phone needs to be turned into the police rather than the school administration, or the teacher could face charges of distributing child pornography.

Whitehead, however, worries that teachers and administrators don’t have the expertise to judge probable cause for such searches and could abuse the power Cuccinelli is conceding them.

“They don’t know what reasonable suspicion is,” he said. “They have one job – teaching students. They’re not law enforcement.”

Anti-bullying campaigners in Wales join online ‘march’ [BBC News Wales, 15/11/2010]

Anti-bullying campaigners in Wales are joining a “virtual march” to mark the start of a week highlighting the issue.

The Big March will visit 60 websites such as such as Action for Children, War Child and Girlguiding UK to call for more support for bullying victims.

Campaigner Gemma Lang, who set up an advice site as a teenager, said digital technology allowed “24/7” bullying.

In Conwy, school pupils are being asked to write poems and songs to promote respect and friendship.

Ms Lang, from Caerphilly, who was bullied at school, has relaunched her Full stop 2 bullying website after a bout of ill-health, and said young victims of bullying no longer had the chance to escape it after school.

She said: “The big thing I am seeing now is the bullying online at home and the hate pages being set up. That’s quite an issue.

“I’ve had some people who were being bullied in their school and those people are then going home and seeing [social network] hate pages against them. It was a further extension of the bullying.

“The internet now just seems to have given a platform for bullies to show off what they are doing.

Bullying now is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s quite worrying really.”

One of those embarking the “virtual march” across around 50 websites, calling for help to combat bullying, is martial arts expert Simon Morrell.

He has 30 years’ experience in the martial arts but this year published a book, from Bullied to Black Belt, describing his experiences.

‘Change behaviour’

He said: “I’m supporting the Big March because I believe it’s an innovative and dynamic way to engage young people in preventing bullying, providing support and ensuring more is done to shape attitudes and change behaviour.”

An anti-bullying conference was recently held in Conwy for staff, pupils and governors from all schools.

Head of education services Geraint James said: “To tackle bullying effectively we need to work on a variety of levels.

“All our schools have anti-bullying policies, but to be really effective we need to harness the support of the whole school community including the pupils themselves.

“It is very encouraging to see so many of our schools taking this opportunity to work with pupils to promote respectful and positive relationships and to develop awareness of how we can tackle bullying together.”

Anti-Bullying Week, from 15-19 November, is run by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), a network of more than 70 organisations.

Demi Lovato Fans Cyber-Bully Ashley Greene and Joe Jonas in Twitter War [ Yahoo Voices, By Sylvia Cochran, 4/11/2010 ]

With hash tags notating flying insults, some fans of Demi Lovato are taking to task ex-boyfriend Joe Jonas and his new squeeze Ashley Greene. This tempest in the teapot is just the latest Twitter war that sees posters cyber-bullying in 140 characters (or less).

Demi Lovato + Joe Jonas = Breakup
Joe Jonas + Ashley Greene + Demi Lovato Breakdown = Twitter War!

When People revealed that Demi Lovato was dating Joe Jonas back in March, 2010, the actress gushed that he (Jonas) was “perfect.” Sadly, the sentiment didn’t stick and just a couple of months later, MTV announced the couple’s breakup, fingering Jonas as the one doing the breaking.

Ashley Greene entered the limelight as Alice Cullen in Twilight. Already romantically linked to Jonas just a couple of months after the latter dumped Lovato, the Daily Fill reported in September 2010 that Lovato fans were not looking kindly on this new relationship. Protest signs (held up during a Greene shopping trip) read “Vampires Suck.”

It seems that Team Lovato is now on the cyber attack ever since the star left the tour she was on with Jonas to seek “treatment for emotional and physical issues.” Placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of Greene and Jonas, the Hollywood Gossip reports that a Twitter war has erupted. Throwing around terms such as “hate” and even stronger suggestions, some Lovato fans have taken to bullying Greene and Jonas on the Internet.

Twitter Wars are Nothing New

The self-styled Team Lovato approach is an aggressive twist on a time-honored tradition. Plenty of other Twitter wars have erupted with one celeb attacking (or making fun of) another star. When George Lopez cracked wise about Lindsay Lohan and her baby powder-covered feet, Pop Eater detailed the heated exchange that followed on Twitter.

Kim Kardashian – as outlined by the NY Daily News – found herself on the short end of the lecturing stick wielded by Demi Moore. The two of them went at it on Twitter over the use of the word “pimpin’.”

Cyber Bullying is Alive and Well on Twitter

Lost in translation is the recent news of cyber-bullying, suicides caused by the practice and also the fact that it is a most vile practice. It is disturbing that being a fan entitles some Twitter users to send messages — such as “I seriously hate you. @AshleyMGreene” — when just a few months ago the news detailed the dangers of cyber-bullying and the heartbreaking results it has.

In addition, it is unclear how Demi Lovato will react to the bullying messages of hate that are sent (supposedly in her support) to Ashley Greene and Joe Jonas.

Cyber-bullying [, by Elizabeth Barrett, 4/11/2010]

Parents receive wake-up call about kids’ use of social media

Lincoln attorney speaks out about potential dangers of Internet, cell phones

A sexting incident involving a 16-year-old Sidney girl has led to the arrest of 36-year-old man.

News accounts say the teen sexted nude photographs of herself and engaged in sexually-based conversations with 36-year-old Kenneth Steffens.

The Sidney man was formally charged Friday with possession of child pornography.

“It’s here, it’s happening in Nebraska,” said Lincoln attorney Karen Haase.

Haase, who deals with social media issues regularly, spoke to middle- and high-school students on Oct. 20 in Gothenburg and to parents during a special presentation that evening.

The attorney, who works for Harding & Schultz, spoke about cyber-bullying, sexting and the hidden dangers of social media networks.

“Social networking is an important part of kids’ lives and parents need to be part of that,” Haase said, adding that parents who are not on Facebook need to join.

Facebook is a social network service and website on the Internet which allows people to communicate with each other.


She described sexting—a combination of sex and texting—as an act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between cell phones.

Although the sexting incident in Sidney happened after her presentation, Haase said in a phone interview Tuesday that it points to the fact that inappropriate use of cell phones and the Internet is on the increase.

In fact, national statistics reveal these percentages for who’s sending sexually suggestive photos:

39% of all teens

37% of girls

40% of boys

48% of teens say they have received sexting photos or messages

Haase shared an incident from Florida in which a girlfriend sent sexually suggestive photos to her boyfriend who forwarded the images to all of his contacts after he became angry with her.

The boy was convicted of distribution of child pornography and will remain on the sex offender registry until he’s 43 years old.

Cyber-bullying—or the use of technology such as a computer or cell phone to engage in deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior by an individual or group with intent to harm others—is also becoming widespread.

Haase shared an example of a conversation that took place through instant messaging.

Divagirl: “Hey loser, watch your back.”

tmt323: “What ru talking about?

Divagirl: “Why don’t you kill yourself while u r ahead?”

tmt323: “Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

Divagirl: “Ugly girls like u need to be put in their place.”

According to a 2008 report from the U.S. National Crime Prevention Council, 43% of teens are exposed to cyber-bullying in one form or another.

Yet, only one in 10 kids told their parents.

Haase said students and parents can be sued for cyber-bullying which if often covered by homeowners insurance.

The suit can be for intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortuous interference or for slander.

Haase started giving presentations about the dangers of social media through her work as a school attorney.

“Kids got into trouble and parents didn’t have a clue,” she said. “They don’t realize it’s an area where they need to parent their kids.”