Public schools

NC Law Criminalizes Student Speech

Jail time for posting even truthful statements that "harass" school employees

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RALEIGH—A new state law, the 2012 School Violence Prevention Act, that will be the first in the nation to impose criminal sanctions on public school students who use computers with the "intent to intimidate or torment" school employees will go into effect Dec. 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina opposes the law because it is too broad, threatens to chill students' free speech, sets a bad precedent by telling students it's wrong to criticize government officials, and could saddle students as young as 16 with up to 60 days in jail or a $1,000 fine for a wide range of acts that do not merit a criminal punishment. The law would even criminalize true statements by prohibiting online statements "whether true or false, (emphasis added) intending to immediately provoke, and that is likely to provoke, any third party to stalk or harass a school employee."