In California, schools gain a tool to halt online cruelty

It was bad enough when middle school students in Novato last year harassed and ridiculed 14-year-old Olivia when she suffered a seizure on campus.

But her torment only worsened when the girl went online and discovered a MySpace page full of taunts, slurs and threats directed at her. Her classmates had dubbed the page "Olivia Haters."

The case of the Novato teen would inspire a book, "Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope." It would also stir a hand-wringing discussion over the emotional cruelty of school bullying and the power of the Internet to make it even more severe.

On Jan. 1, a new California law will give schools authority to suspend or expel students for bullying fellow students over the Internet, in text-messaging or by other electronic means.

Assembly Bill 86 by Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, adds cyberbullying to school disciplinary codes that previously defined bullying only in terms of direct physical or verbal harassment.

Lieu said he sponsored the legislation out of concern that the Internet has become a prime tool among students "to intimidate, harass or bully another person at school."

Read the complete story at